Deep sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, distress, heartache, heartbreak, agony, torment, affliction, suffering, woe, desolation, despair, mourning, bereavement, lamentation.
Although this is the official definition of grief, personally, I can define grief in one word…ugly. There is no perfect transition between denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There is no straight line between point a to point e. I believe that if you truly grief losing someone, you bounce from a to c, c to b etc. It’s just ugly. Life never goes back to normal. All we can do is adjust to a new normal. Whatever that looks like. None of us like change but it is going to happen. You cannot lose someone you love and continue life just like it never happened. I do believe that for some people, when they have been sick for some time, when a death is expected, somehow it is almost comforting. When they finally take their last breath is it an end to pain and suffering. We do not want the ones that we love to suffer. I remember sitting by my dad’s bedside. It was so difficult to watch the biggest, strongest man that I ever loved, reduce to pain. I was prepared but not prepared. The aftermath of his passing has been a challenge. I have a mother to care for now. Her care has increased over the years and the responsibility falls to me. It’s extra time that I must give her. My life on hold. No doing what I want to do on days off from work. I do what she needs and take care of things. I have learned and adjusted to doing what needs to be done. Things that dad would have done or taken care of around the house. Help her make decisions etc. Do I want this job? Is this normal? No, but it is a responsibility that I have and I do it with joy.
What about the death that we don’t see coming? Those unexpected ones. We think we have more time. Valuable time. If I give you my time, I care about you and your life. We are only allowed so many times to circle the sun. Just like your checkbook, where you write the most checks equals what you value as the most important thing in your life. Where you spend the most of your time equals what you value the most in life. How on earth do you deal with those unexpected deaths? The ones that you think you have a lifetime with. The ones who give you joy. The ones who you depend on. The ones that you think will bury you instead of the other way around.
(This is the first part in a twelve part series. More to come.)
‘Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.’
Paul challenged the Galatian church to stand firm in their faith and not to return to the bondage of the law. Deliverance from the curse that law pronounces on the sinners who has been striving unsuccessfully to achieve his own righteousness. Making a commitment to God mean that He demands your attention. Just like any relationship worth pursing, we must give attention, nurture and cultivate those relationships. Our relationship with God is no exception. He demands immediate obedience. When you are told to do something, you must listen and obey. God doesn’t give us suggestions but instead give us commands. It is a privilege for us to do His work. He doesn’t call just anyone to a particular place for a particular task. It is like being a member of a ball team and just standing on the court not playing. We will not be productive and we will not be showing God’s love just standing there in the middle of the court. It is an honor to know that God placed you in a particular place for a particular reason. Enjoy that thought. You were made for a reason. He had plans for you when you were created by Him. When we pray to Him, He promises that He will listen. He wants that conversation with us. There is nothing we can say to Him that He won’t understand. As David told his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:9, ‘the Lord searches all hearts and understand all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you.’ Are we really seeking? Are we really committed? Do we really surrender all? If we are honest, you will probably admit that we surrender about a quarter of our lives. That means that we are only about a quarter full. Our cups do not run over. If our cups are dry, how can the love of God overflow onto others? Correct me I’m wrong but isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing here? Filled with Christ and the overflow from our worship fall onto others so that they see His love through us? You see, that is the definition of true freedom, being ‘full’ of God. Keeping the tank on F. Drinking in His spirit from the Living Water, Feeding on His Word. Finding rest in His Peace and becoming a light so that others can see a path directly to Him. Anything else we do in life is unimportant.
Let’s concentrate on the word steadfast. It is an interesting word. It is one of those words that the meaning could be misunderstood. Steadfast means unwavering, firmly fixed, constant, firmly loyal or totally dependent upon. Over 200 times the word steadfast is mentioned in the Bible.
Proverbs 4:26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. I’m reminded of the kid’s song that says, oh be careful little feet where you go. That is exactly what this verse tells us. Don’t go where you don’t belong and be firmly fixed in the ways of God.
Isaiah 54:10 ‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.’ His constant love shall never leave you. He moves mountains and removes hills. Climbing those mountains and hills are daunting. Allow Him to move them for you and you will never be alone.
Psalm 103:8 ‘The Lord is merciful and gracious and abounding in steadfast love. Constant – never changes, never stops. Unlike humans who leave us, forsake us and seek to destroy us; God never does. He is merciful and gracious to us always.
Grasp the full definition of steadfast. God is unwavering, He never changes. His is firmly fixed in His love for us. He is constant with His grace and mercy. He is firmly loyal and we can fully and totally depend on Him.
We desire things. Material possessions, money, houses, cars and the latest technology. This passage clearly tells us what we should desire, to seek, dwell, behold and inquire.
- Seeking God – going to church is where we learn, grow and fellowship. Attending worship is a vital part of our growth as a child of God. I believe that this scripture is instructing us to go deeper than weekly attendance. We are to read, study, memorize scripture, share Christ with others and be actively involved in our local church. We are to drink from the Living Well, fill our cups, cast every care and think about Him every moment of every day.
- Dwelling upon God – dwellings are places of rest. We rest, let down our guards and relax. Exactly what we are to do with God. No matter what happens, we are to rest in God’s promises, even when our lives do not make sense.
- Behold – behold the Lamb in all His wonderful glory. The Lamb whom was sacrificed for you so that you can have eternal life. How can you not share this Lamb with others?
- Inquire – Imagine with me for a moment. Streets of gold, lush hills, beautiful scenery, loved ones who have passed, reunions, bountiful feasts, no worries, no cares, no stress and no tears. Overwhelming, isn’t it? In this scenario, one detail is overlooked. One important detail is missing. Where is Jesus? I can tell you. He is looking for you. He is waiting at the gate, rolling out the red carpet, summoning the welcome committee and welcoming you with open arms. He inquires about us, He knows the exact moment of our arrival and He smiles when He sees His children. He welcomes us home. So, a God who does all those things for us, prepares our home and shows us around, He will never forsake us when we earnestly search for Him.
Seek Him, Dwell in Him, behold in Him and inquire about Him in all areas of your life. Our first thought when we wake and our last thought before sleep and every thought in between are moments that we need to be dwelling on Him instead of anything else. I agree, it’s hard, but it’s doable.
Psalm 27:4-5 ‘One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.’
One sweet day, I will dwell in His house all the days of my life, I will gaze upon Him and His beauty. I’m seeking for Him because I know He keeps my safe and hides me from harm.
Put on Righteousness
Isaiah 59:17 tells us, “For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.” How is a helmet like salvation? How many stories do we hear that state, ‘if only he had on a helmet he would have not suffered a brain injury’? A helmet would have saved their life. Her parents said that she would have been killed without the helmet. Being without a helmet will cause you harm. Being without salvation will take you to hell. Salvation means to be delivered from something. If you are saved, you are delivered from hell. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 62:7 “In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.” So, by seeking God through trust, faith and hope, we receive knowledge of truth, peace and strength. We have a place to turn in times of trouble and a place to hide when we need rest. I know that I rest in the palm of His almighty hand and nothing can take that away from me. No matter how terrible things can get, we can still rest there because He will protect us from all unrighteousness and His kingdom will prevail.
Roman Soldier and his righteousness….
What does this Roman soldier’s sword teach us about using the Bible to fight our battles? In Roman infantry, the soldier would typically go into battle with more than one type of weapon. Swords, daggers, darts and spears were all used. They were heavily armed because once you attacked during the battle, that was it; there was not a do-over or a time out to pick up your weapon. It was basically a one-shot deal. But interestingly enough, Paul lists the sword as the only weapon here in Ephesians. That is because there is only one weapon we need in our arsenal. There is only one way to the truth. There is only one way to knowledge. There is only one way to the light of the world. Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” His word illuminates our lives so that we can see where we are going. He only gives us just enough light so we can see where we are going one step at a time but He always supplies that light. We got bogged down in darkness that we fail to flip the switch and acknowledge that He lights our path. We fail to look to Him in all circumstances, good or bad, and give thanks in every season. Did you know that God is unchanging? Whether we are on the mountain or in the valley, God is the same and He loves it when we meet with Him each day. He loves to talk to us and He does so through His word. Hebrews 4:12 “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
In this life, His Word is all we need. It is the most powerful form of defense that we have in this life. It is our source of life, strength, hope and power. Without it, we are nothing. Swords were also used for close combat not for fighting from a distance. This is because God wants us in the middle of the action fighting battles on His behalf. We cannot fight a good fight from the perimeter. That is the difference between a spectator and a participant. God wants us to participate and spread the Gospel. He desires for s to be the hands and feet of His word. He longs for us to be courageous and be the mouthpieces of truth. He gives us the strongest sword we can carry and the most powerful defense in the world and He will send the strongest army to back us up when we need help. Against His word there is no defense.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
When you have strong feelings towards something, you draw near to it. It may be an object, a person, a craft, a cause, a career or even a place. Even stronger feelings cause a person to dive into their interest with both feet instead of toeing the water. God wants us to be completely immersed in Him. Dive in with both feet. Stop toeing the water to check the temperature. Dive. Completely and totally bathe yourself in God. Draw near to the Living Water. Completely. You will not regret it and you will not look back. As James tells us, if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. That is the closeness that I want with God. I want Him so close to me that I become more like Him every moment of every day. I don’t want to be the old me. I want the new and improved version who seeks Him earnestly each day. I desperately want to cleanse my hands and purify my heart. Unfortunately, each day, we all do things that cause us to stumble or heaven-forbid, make our brothers and sisters stumble. You see, cleansing ourselves and bathing ourselves is a constant, everyday process. It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ you are, what matters is that we ask forgiveness. Everyday forgiveness. If you think back on your last hour, I’m sure you said something, thought something or done something that may not be pleasing to God. It totally went against His word. It was probably unintentional, but it happened. Those are the moments that we are to draw near. Get as close as you can. Snuggle under the covers, go to the prayer closet, get away from the busyness, dive and quiet yourself. Talk to the Father, He is waiting for you.
Praise Him in the Sanctuary
Let all things praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary. Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts. Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!
What does praise look like to you?
All things are to praise the Lord. Not just some. Not the ones at just this church or just that church. All things. Praise. Everywhere. At all times. Praise Him at church. Praise Him for His mighty acts. Praise Him for his deeds. Praise Him with the trumpet. Praise Him with the guitar and piano. Praise Him with the tambourine and dance. Praise Him with flutes and clashing cymbals. In other words, praise Him with everything.
But what exactly is praise? Admiration, acclamation, tribute or approbation is the short answer. Praise looks different to each person though. My form of praising God may look different than yours and that is okay. I believe that God doesn’t mind various forms of worship if you are praising. We praise because it is a privilege, not an obligation. We should look forward to it. It should never be something that we dread or avoid. I believe in those moments of true praise, we hear God speak. It is in those times that he says things that we need to hear the most. We hear the still small voice of our King. Praise can be quiet, loud, in a prayer closet, in your bathroom while you are getting ready for your day, on your back porch, in the kitchen, at church with a full band or even while you are in bed at night. God chooses to interrupt our day so that we can focus on Him. We should beg God for those interruptions so that we can see more of Him. He wants us to be still and focus on His purposes, His plan and the life that He has for us.
The Hour is Coming
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him, God is Spirit and those who worship in spirit and truth.
Everyone seems to know the story of the Samaritan woman (vs. 1-20). We pick up there. Jesus and the Samaritan woman are still talking. He had already told her everything about her life right there at that well, in the middle of town, at noon. He told her, it really doesn’t matter where you worship. Just worship. You think you know about worship and salvation but you really don’t. The time is coming, aka now, to worship in spirit and truth. He looks to and fro for those who will worship Him, true worship. Not the show that we sometimes see on Sunday morning. Remind me to tell you how I feel about our need to be entertained at church. When we worship Him in spirit and in truth, we give everything to Him. There is no barrier between us and Him. True, honest, wholesome, no wall between us. Even though He told her everything about her, she still said, ‘I know the Messiah is coming.’ She believed but she wasn’t completely sold on the idea that He was truly the Messiah. We believe but we resist His power. We aren’t really sold. How many times have you said to God, wait…not said, begged God to unleash His full power? What if you begged, He answered and you experienced Him fully? Just rest in that a moment. Experience Him fully? Honestly, I don’t think any of us know what that is like. I’m not sure that we could handle His full power. He tells her v.26, I AM the Messiah. You see, He is everything. Even things that we don’t understand. We fail to give Him full and total praise. Life seems to get in the way. Even at church, during worship, we aren’t fully there. Our minds are elsewhere. It is so important to clear our minds and prepare for worship long before we show up at church. Of course, worship can happen anywhere, therefore; constantly having our minds on Him will allow us to worship without inhibitions. He really wants that from us. True, honest, unadulterated worship simply because He IS the Messiah.
10 characteristics of God to encourage and strengthen you.
God can’t get tired.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.
God can’t take on a job he can’t handle.
Ah, Lord God! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you.
God can’t be unholy.
And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
God can’t be prejudiced.
In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him.
God can’t break a promise.
My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of my lips.
God can’t remember sins he’s chosen to forget.
I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.
God can’t make a loser.
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.
—2 Corinthians 2:14
God can’t abandon you.
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, he is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
God can’t stop thinking about you.
How precious also are your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with you.
God can’t stop loving you.
Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
Are you spiritually bankrupt? Have you gotten to the end of your rope only to find that the know is untied? Are you fighting an uphill battle with no end in sight? Here’s hope…. Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Our lives are like a car wreck. Sometimes we spin out of control. Our worlds are flipped upside down. We lose control of the wheel because we didn’t see another car coming. Sometimes the music is too loud that we cannot focus on the road. Stopping the spinning is what God does best. He can make sure the seat belt is tightened and readjust our focus. Sometimes we must have the wreck so that He can get our attention. We must rest in the promise that no matter what happens, God is still in control. He doesn’t want to be the co-pilot but rather the pilot. He doesn’t want us drifting around on the water but rather He wants us to anchor to Him. Once we stop and sit at His feet for a while, we can see the other car coming and we can focus on the path that we are on so that the distractions of life do not get in the way of our worship. Because of this, we can have hope in Him. We place our hope in many things. Our family (they will always disappoint us), our friends (some have their own agenda), our jobs (everyone is replaceable). What if we placed our hope in Someone who truly deserves it? Fire, earthquakes, famine, war…. after these take place, what is left? Put your faith and hope in God Almighty. Put your faith and hope in the One who truly deserves of our time and energy. He created us to worship Him. He created us to have hope in Him.