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O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary
    and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of you,
    meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
    I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your strong right hand holds me securely.

But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
    They will go down into the depths of the earth.
They will die by the sword
    and become the food of jackals.
But the king will rejoice in God.
    All who trust in him will praise him,
    while liars will be silenced. 
Psalm 63

I really don’t have much to say today.  I’ve rifled through my Bible several times and nothing really stands out above another scripture for me today.  That is a little disheartening, but that is life.  I decided on this scripture because of where I am in my life.  Nothing really matters, I only want God.  I want Him close by, I want to be inundated with His presence.  Ever breath I take I want to infuse myself with His Spirit.  I can’t get enough of Him, and yet, I feel He is so far away.  I am parched for Him and nothing will satisfy me but Him.  I know that God has not abandoned me, just that I no longer feel His comforting presence.  I realize that if it were not for His comforting presence, even when I don’t feel Him, I would truly be in dire straights…this is all just a matter of perception and my perception is skewed.

I’ll type one note for today…

Note on verses 1-5

Hiding from his enemies in the barren wilderness of Judah, David was intensely lonely.  He longed for a friend he could trust to ease his loneliness.  No wonder he cried out, “O God, . . . my soul thirsts for you . . . in this parched and weary land.”  If you are lonely or thirsty for something lasting in your life, remember David’s prayer.  God alone can satisfy our deepest longings!

I’m in a time of my life where I can only cling to the Lord.  I thirst for Him, pant for Him like a deer pants for water.  Generally things are on the upswing, but I have my days, like today.  There is nothing that I can pin-point that has triggered these dismal feelings, just that I have them.  And so, I long for God, His nearness, His wisdom, His guidance, His comfort.  I just don’t want to do anything else, just be with Him, talk to Him, share with Him.  Sometimes, like today, I carry on a one sided conversation with Him just to feel close to Him.  And because I know that He is there and that He is listening to me, I can take comfort in that.  I may not feel Him, but my comfort lies in knowing He is near.

I went to sleep last night asking the Lord what is it about me that is cloaking His presence from me.  God, in perfection, is not the problem, but me in my imperfections.  So, it is a fair assessment that I have placed the block between us.  I can accept that and I simply ask and wait patiently for God to remove that block or show me what I’m doing or holding on to that prevents Him from filling me with His radiant presence. 

Oh how I long for the feeling of His presence.  I kind of want to just stop living until I re-aquire His presence.  I want to press pause on my life and run off to be by myself until I can feel Him next to me again.  I don’t want to take another step, I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to live one more second until all things are made right in me by basking in His presence. 

That’s what I want, but that isn’t how it works.  Instead, I’ll continue to live each day, each moment, each second as if He I can feel His presence because I know that He is present.  With each step, with each second, moment and each day, I grow stronger in my faith because of believing without seeing. 

My husband and I got into a bit of an argument last night.  It really wasn’t a big thing, yet we got into it.  It is frustrating because I can see how futile these ‘little’ arguments are and yet we still do it.  I just wish we could get along better, daily.  I want so much to have a marriage relationship modeled after the marriage relationship depicted in the scriptures, but both of us get in the way.  I’m tired and just don’t want to keep plugging away at it.  It is hard to see that it is worth it.  But, I know that it is because I live my life for God’s glory, not my own.  I know that divorce will not make matters any better.  And if that ever happened, I know that another marriage, though may be easier to handle, will not be worth it either.  Only God is worth anything and living for Him is all that matters.

After little arguments like last night, I look to the end of April with apprehension!  I don’t want to live with my husband and argue with him like this on a near daily basis.  I don’t want to ‘put up’ with him.  I can’t send him ‘home’ when I live with him.  He simply drives me nuts.  I really need God to help me.  God, please instill a new and right attitude towards this whole situation.  I know that I’m incapable of doing this myself and I need you now!!!!!

Anyway, today, I simply say, “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you…”  God, I love you, I miss you and I need you.  I don’t want to live life without you.  Please rescue me from myself.  Psalm 119 is such a great psalm.  Throughout its entirety David acknowledges that he is just a man and only God can change him  from within.  I think I’m going to start reading it every day as a reminder of who God is and who I am.  I can do nothing except through the power of the Holy Living God.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

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Lord, you always give me justice when I bring a case before you.   So let me bring you this complaint:  Why are the wicked so prosperous?  Why are evil people so happy?  You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered.  Your name is on their lips, but you are far from their hearts.  But as for me, Lord, you know my heart.  You see me and test my thoughts.  Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered!  Set them aside to be slaughtered!

How long must this land mourn?  Even the grass in the fields has withered.  The wild animals and birds have disappeared because of the evil in the land.  For the people have said, “The Lord doesn’t see what’s ahead for us!”

“If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses?  If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?  Even your brothers, members of your own family, have turned against you.  They plot and raise complaints against you.  Do not trust them, no matter how pleasantly they speak.”  Jeremiah 12:1-6

Hello, my friends.  It has been a very long time since I’ve sat down to write.  I’m sorry and hope you’ll forgive me.  God finally showed me a month or more ago why I couldn’t write anything on my blog lately…I have been going through a pruning season and have needed this time to re-focus on God, His Word and His Will.  I can’t claim that I’m perfectly there, but hey, its a season that we all go through from time to time, even the most seasoned Christians out there.  In any case. 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you.   No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  John 15:1-4

Life is overall better.  I’ve allowed God control of my situation, though I still at times try to take control back, I won’t kid you.  Though still separated from my husband, we are beginning to get things worked out.  In fact, my lease will be up at the end of April and I will once again venture to live with him again.  We will have our fourth child in the middle of April so life is taking quite a few unexpected turns, but I’ve accepted them.  God knows what is best.

The most refreshing news, I think, is that the Lord has really worked in my heart and much of the resentment that drove me is mostly gone.  Praise God for His glorious work in me.  There are still scars that need messaged every once in a while and sometimes bitterness seeps back in, but that happens few and far between.  My husband has done a 180 and is coming back the other way.  He has acknowledged his horrible treatment of me in the beginning and is starting to show remorse for his behavior towards me and even more importantly towards our oldest child.  As most women will understand, I can handle the injustices towards me better than towards my children.

But, enough about that…lets talk about the above text in Jeremiah and why it is on my heart today (well the last few weeks to be precise).  First I’ll type in the notes from my study bible…

Note on verses 1-6

Many people have asked, “why are the wicked so prosperous?”  (See, for example, Job 21:4-21 and Habakkuk 1:1-4.)  Jeremiah knew that God’s justice would ultimately come, but he was impatient because he wanted justice to come quickly.  God didn’t give a doctrinal answer; instead, he gave a challenge:  If Jeremiah couldn’t handle this, how would he handle the injustices ahead?  It is natural for us to demand fair play and cry for justice against those who take advantage of others.  But when we call for justice, we must realize that we ourselves would be in big trouble if God gave each of us what we truly deserve. 

Note on verses 5, 6

Life was extremely difficult for Jeremiah despite his love for and obedience to God.  When he called to God for relief, God’s reply in effect was, “If you think this is bad, how are you going to cope when it gets really tough?”  God’s answers to prayer are not always nice or easy to handle.  Any christian who has experienced war, bereavement, or a serious illness knows this.  We are to be committed to God even when the going gets tough and when our prayers for relief are not immediately answered.

I’ve oftentimes thought of this text during my struggles in these past several years, and know it doesn’t sound very comforting to think that things will get worse.  But, God has never promised to eliminate our hardships, only that He will be there with us as we walk through them.  In the past year and a half, the only real desire I have had was to ‘go home’ with the Lord.  I’m tired of this life, of trying to figure things out, of trying to do God’s will and continually failing at every turn and in between the turns.  I’m just tired.  I’ve often asked God ‘why?’  As far as a typical day goes, most of the time I feel life is meaningless.  The only thing that really matters is God. 

I spoke with a dear sister this weekend and my conversation with her touched on all this and that is why I’m writing about it today, it is fresh on my mind.  As I told her, the only thing that really matters is that God knows my heart, He knows I am tired and just don’t want to be here anymore, and He knows that I know that He is God.  I’ve asked God to take me home, but I remain.  I have recognized that God is God and have kept Him in the proper place but that doesn’t take away these feelings.  As I encouraged my sister, in times like these, as long as we are real and keep God in His proper place in our lives – leaving God as God – then we are not wrong to be tired, or to want to go home with Him.  Being completely transparent with God and yet acknowledging God makes us humble by default.  It shines the spotlight on how futile life really is unless all things are done for God and through God.  Everything, absolutely everything in life should be done for the glory of God. 

I can’t say that I understand what God really meant when He answered Jeremiah.  I know that I certainly don’t want to ‘race against horses.’  Life has already been exhausting enough, I certainly don’t want more of the same.  Yet, I believe that God has me here for a reason still and that I have to learn that every moment of my life depends solely on the grace of the Lord. 

I was thinking this morning about my ‘plight.’  All of my life, and I would venture to guess that this is the case for most of us, I have lived in my ‘comfort zone.’  In fact, I can look back and see that I never want to leave my comfort zones, especially the older I get and each time I move into a new level of comfort, it is because God has uprooted me and I’ve settled in another plot, so to speak.  God has never wanted me to stay in my comfort zone.  At each stage, I’ve been forced out and then I’d settle, then I’d be forced out again, and resettle.  It would be so much easier if I would just let God plant me instead of making Him uproot me every so often to do His will, things would be much easier on me.  But, no, I’m rather hard headed and pretty darn stubborn about doing things my way. 

Well, I don’t have much more time today, so I’ll have to finish writing for now.  I’m sorry my thoughts are rather hodgepodge today, and it is my prayer, as always, that God will use me to reach those who need to hear what He has to say.  I know that even when I may not make sense, God’s spirit can help you understand and know what He is trying to tell you. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

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Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little.  Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool.  And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too.  After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools!  You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face.  I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that!

But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too.  Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.  Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.  Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.  I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.  I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?

If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.  God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying.  When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me.  I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.  2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Well, I cried to the Lord in my prayer today before I opened my bible and then here was the passage I opened to.  Lets see what we get from here and see how we can apply it to our lives. 

I cried today because I know the work that God has cut out for me.  I know what He wants me to do with my life…bear in mind, I don’t know the minute details, but He has shown me several things about where my life is heading.  And as these thoughts crossed my mind in my prayer this morning, I felt so completely inadequate and utterly weak and unable to accomplish the tasks set before me.  It seems impossible for me to get from where I am now to where I know that I will be one day.  But, then, as Paul has said, ‘when I am weak, then I am strong.’  I don’t know how, when or where all the things that the Lord has shown me will take place, but I know that they will come to pass.  So, with that little side note…lets take a look at the scripture and even the notes from my study bible.

One thing that comes to mind immediately is that Paul uses the terms fool and foolish.  He was asking his listeners to hear him just as they would entertain the follies of a foolish person, at least for a time.  Naturally, with that word, I’m sure you came to the same scriptural thought that I did…

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.  Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.  God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.  1 Corinthians 1:26-29

And then in another passage…

Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  1 Corinthians 3:18-19

I wrote once about this back in January of 2008.  God Chose the things the world considers foolish 1 Corinthians 1:27  You might find it interesting reading, but don’t feel obligated.  Paul goes on to recount a list of reasons why he had credibility and authority.  Many times I have read this passage and thought that Paul has a little bit of pride, but today, it struck me a little different.  He says that it is foolishness for him to recount these things, to continue on like he does, and in many ways, it is true, especially from the world’s perspective.  Who cares?  No one really cares about all the trials and hardships that this one man faced, even though he was a child of God. 

Yet, today, I see this passage as a comfort.  Along the same lines of yesterday’s post, I feel like I’ve done more whining and complaining than turning folks to Jesus and His saving power.  Yet, reading this scripture, I realized that it is important to share our trials, sometimes listing them as a laundry list so that other Christians can be strengthened and non-believers can align themselves correctly with the one true God and see that He loves them, even in their hardships because He loves those who are devoted to Him.  Yes, that is foolishness to the world.  absolutely… How about a note or two now?  (Remember, the notes from my bible are in green and my words are always in black.)

Note on verses 22, 23

Paul presented his credentials to counteract the charges that the false teachers were making against him.  He felt foolish boasting like this, but his list of credentials would silence any doubts about his authority.  Paul wanted to keep the Corinthians from slipping under the spell of the false teachers and turning away from the Good News.  Paul also gave a list of his credentials in his letter to the Philippians (see Philippians 3:4-8).

I don’t think I have any authority and I don’t list my credentials either.  But I do try to be transparent, and in that I find that God grants authority to my words because they resonate with my readers.  My sins, my screw-ups and my daily living is nothing to boast of and I certainly couldn’t claim that I’ve lived a life like Paul and endured the kind of pain and torture that he did, yet God gives a certain understandable quality to my posts that I couldn’t relay no matter how hard I tried.  I’m certainly not Paul, but God has and continues to use me just as I am, no matter how foolish I sound or act…God uses me.  I’ve already said much about this before the note, so let’s move on, shall we?

Note on verses 23-29

Paul was angry that the false teachers had impressed and deceived the Corinthians (11:13-15).  Therefore, he had reestablished his credibility and authority by listing the trials he had endured in his service for Christ.  Some of these trials are recorded in the book of Acts (Acts 14:19; 16:22-24).  Because Paul wrote this letter during his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:17), his trials weren’t over.  He would experience yet further difficulties and humiliations for the cause of Christ (see Acts 21:20-22: 22:24-30).  Paul was sacrificing his life for the Good News, something the false teachers would never do.  The trials and hurts we experience for Christ’s sake build our character, demonstrate our faith, and prepare us for further service to the Lord.

There is only one thing that I want to point out in this note and talk about a little bit.  Paul was sacrificing his life for the Good News, something the false teachers would never do.  You don’t know how many times I’ve seen this in my husband and others who say that they are Christians and love the Lord with all their heart.  I can’t say that I’m perfect, so I’m sure that there are times when I fit into this category too.  But, whenever we are unwilling to yield or forego something that we want for the benefit of another, we are like these false teachers.  When we cannot extend even the slightest mercy towards others and give them the benefit of the doubt and help them in some way, then we are not putting God’s kingdom first and are living only for ourselves.  If God’s kingdom reigns in our heart on a daily, even on a minute basis, then we will have tendencies to think of ourselves first, almost always.  When God’s kingdom is in our hearts and His Sovereignty is running our thoughts and hearts, then we will speak and act from that viewpoint and not one from the worlds.  I feel like I’m talking in circles…May God provide clarity to you.

Note on verse 25

Sea travel was not as safe as it is today.  Paul had been shipwrecked three times, and he would face another accident on his voyage to Rome (see Acts 27).  By this time, Paul had probably made at least eight or nine voyages.

Note on verses 28, 29

Not only did Paul face beatings and dangers, he also carried the daily concern for the young churches, worrying that they were staying true to the Good News and free from false teachings and inner strife.  Paul was concerned for individuals in the churches he served.  If God has placed you in a position of leadership and authority, treat people with Paul’s kind of empathy and concern.

I would only add to this note that it doesn’t matter if you have a position of leadership and authority like Paul, but you should treat everyone with Paul’s kind of empathy and concern.  Does it make your heart break when you see a believer fall?  Does it make you cry out to God when you see a person profaning God?  Does it make you want to get up and do something for the Good News when there is so much evil and vile things in this world today?  Do you pray for the unsaved?  Listen up folks, these are your sisters and brothers.  Maybe for their sins they don’t deserve God and heaven, but are we to judge that?  No!  If God loved us enough to send His only Son (John 3:16) while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), then who are we to say that other sinners aren’t worthy enough for God’s love?  Get with it people, get real!  Jesus came to serve, not be served.  He came to give us an example of how we are to live in this world right now for His kingdom.  We are only passing through, and we should be trying, reaching out to those in darkness and allowing God’s light to shine through us to them so that they can be saved.  We don’t have to be in a special position to do this, we simply have to be in a place where God can use us and He is so powerful that no matter where we are or what we are doing, He can use us for His glory.  Never forget that!

(Sorry for that little rant there…I’ll step down from my soap box now…)

Note on verses 32, 33

King Aretas, king of the Nabateans (Edomites) from 9 B.C. to A.D. 40, had appointed a governor to oversee the Nabatean segment of the population in Damascus.  Somehow the Jews in Damascus had been able to enlist this governor to help them try to capture Paul (see Acts 9:22-25).  Paul gave a “for instance” here, describing his escape from Damascus in a basket lowered from a window in the city wall.  Paul recounted this incident to show what he had endured for Christ.  The false teachers couldn’t make such claims.

The only thing I have here is that we shouldn’t limit false teachings to false teachers.  The devil is a sneaky and vile creature.  He can use even the most devout brothers and sisters that you know for his purposes.  That is why it is imperative to us as believers to ‘study to show ourselves approved.’ (KJV, but the NLT says this…) Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15  In other words, we are to ‘rightly divide the Word of truth,’ (again the KJV).  The only way to do this is to read the Word ourselves and see if what we have heard is, in fact, what is in the scriptures.  I could say all kinds of things, but maybe not get a few things quite right.  Then it is not only your responsibility to test what I say against the scripture, but also you must tell me where I have been mislead.  I welcome comments, but all to often, with the exception of my normal readers, I don’t get too many comments.  So, I trust in the Lord that whatever I say, He can help my readers understand.  I know that He does.  I also know that if I say something that isn’t quite right, God will help those that get it and help them to find the real scriptural truth.  My God is greater than any foible that I could possibly find myself in.  Thank goodness for that!

Okay, I’m on another soapbox…I’ll just simply close for today.  God is Sovereign!  That is a most magnificent thought!  Besides Christ shedding His blood and atoning for my sins, which is the most significant thing, I love the knowledge and comfort that the thought of God is sovereign brings to me and my wellbeing.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

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All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.  Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.  We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.  2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Sometimes I wonder why I even continue to write.  Why do I bother?  Then I think of the countless people, both in the past and those yet to find this site that have been helped by my troubles.  I realize that at times, I have whined and complained more than I should have, yet even then, God can and does use those times to help others, all for His glory.  It is not what I want to be made known for, the whining and complaining, but I do want to be used by the Lord, a tool in His hand, and an avenue for His glory to be made known.  I’m having trouble these days wanting to write.  Partly because I’m having trouble sitting down and reading God’s Word.  I need prayers to dig deep into the Word of God and allow myself to be bathed in the mercy and grace that these pages hold.  Life is always moving forward and there seems to be no stopping until death or the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus.  Blessed be His name for He loves and cherishes us.

I have no idea what to write, so I’ll start with the notes from my study bible. 

Note on verses 3-5

Many think that when God comforts us, our troubles should go away.  But if that were always so, people would turn to God only out of a desire to be relieved of pain and not out of love for him.  We must understand that being “comforted” can also mean receiving strength, encouragement, and hope to deal with our troubles.  The more we suffer, the more comfort God gives us.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, allow God to comfort you.  Remember that every trial you endure will help you comfort other people who are suffering similar troubles.

When I think about all that I have endured over the last several years and compare this time in my life to when I first became a believer, I realize that the things I dealt with back then, though seemingly huge in my mind, were peanuts compared to the things of recent past.  And one day, I’ll look back at this time in my life and think that this was peanuts compared to what I will encounter then. 

God comforts us right where we are, with whatever trials we are enduring.  Even if they are trials that were brought about by our own ways, sins or selfishness, God comforts us.  He gives us grace and mercy to get through it and a hope and faith that there is something greater awaiting us on the other side.  Without that hope, we would surely fall into a spiral of self-condemnation and despair.

The comfort of His hope is such a powerful tool that He has given to us and freely provides for us.

Note on verse 5

Suffering for Christ refers to those afflictions we experience as we serve Christ.  At the same time, Christ suffers with his people, since they are united with him.  In Acts 9:4, 5 Christ asked Paul why he was persecuting him.  This implies that Christ suffered with the early Christians when they were persecuted.

I have suffered much from my husband over the course of my knowing him.  Some would argue that it isn’t suffering for Christ or my faith, and then some maybe would…I’m not going to judge.  I think part of it is for Christ and believing in Him, but I’m not naive.  I realize that some of the suffering is because I have tried to live my life in my own way instead of God’s perfect design.  I can’t claim that everything I’ve went through is because of my faith.  No, some of it, if not most of it, is because of my selfish and stubborn desires to do things my way.  Does that make it of non-effect?  I don’t think so.  I’m weak and vulnerable, just like you and those who read my posts can easily associate with my experiences.  It is God who turns my words around for His Glory and I just praise Him for doing it.  I don’t want to detract from Him or His glory and kingdom.  Should I ever feel that I do that, then I would need to cease posting.  Thank God He uses me, a broken, sin-filled woman for His glory.  I can do nothing without Him.

Note on verses 6, 7

Paul explains that when he and his companions suffered, it resulted in their “benefit and salvation.”  But just as God comforted Paul, God would also comfort the Corinthian believers when they suffered for their faith.  He would give them the strength to endure.

Sometimes, right in the middle of trials and hardship, it is easy to say that God comforts others, but He must have forgotten about me.  How often has this thought or similar thoughts run through my mind.  ‘What about me, Lord,’ is the real cry behind this line of thinking.  When friends tell me of their trials, I can many times see through immediately and see the hand of God and the direction of the Holy Spirit in their hardships.  It even makes me smile and laugh to see God’s work in their lives in such a mighty way, yet, to turn the mirror around on me, I don’t see those things in my life during my trials and hardships.  It is so hard to see when the rain is pouring down in sheets and the sky is so dark and the wind is blowing.  But, just like a movie camera, the person on the outside can see everything you do and everything that God is doing with such clarity. 

I suppose it is well worth noting that sometimes the comfort God gives is not a feeling, but a knowledge and understanding of His Word or Himself.  There have been times that my only comfort was the knowledge that it couldn’t last forever, that one day, God would bring me through it.  It was a simple thought that I would cling to, it didn’t give me feelings of love, mercy, or grace.  It didn’t inundate me with the sensations of ease and comfort, but it did give me a lifeline to His saving grace.  Acknowledging Him in the most basic, most profound way in my mind conveyed to my spirit that everything would be okay.  Once my mind wrapped around that thought, my spirit supplied the sensations and the feelings of comfort were induced.  I suppose what I’m saying is that God’s comfort doesn’t always start in feelings and sensations, but sometimes, and in my case more often than not, God’s comfort started in thought. 

Well, today is short, but I hope that the message is clear.  God’s comfort surpasses all human understanding and all we need to do is allow God to comfort us.  It isn’t with comfort shopping, comfort food, or comfort activities, but with the knowledge of the Lord, the Almighty God and His righteousness.  That is what true comfort is and means.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

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So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.  I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.  So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.  Romans 7:14-25

My soul is vexed today!  I am at a new level of understanding with the above scripture!  I could not be in more total agreement than I am right now!!!  I know what is right, yet my pride and selfishness is keeping me from doing right.  To fill you in, though things have been roughly heading in the right direction with my marriage, in the last week or so, things have taken the proverbial 1 step back in the 2 step forwards and 1 step back dance…  Over the weekend, we had a huge fight, and kind of made up, but then yesterday evening it seems we have come to another war zone… 

I know that I should forgive and seek forgiveness.  I know that as the wife, I should be submissive.  I know…oh so much of what the scriptures say that I should do, and yet, my pain from past hurts, my frustrations of this present situation and my unyielding soul are all pitted against me to do what is scripturally right!  Argh!  While I was praying just now, asking God why I’m so hard-headed, Paul’s discourse from Romans popped into my head.  So, I thought it was just fitting to pour over this scripture and see what we can learn about our natures, our sin-filled, prideful, self-loving instead of giving of self natures…And to do that, lets take a look at the notes…

Note on verse 14

“I am sold into slavery, with sin as my master” may be a reference to the old nature that seeks to rebel and be independent of God.  If I, being a Christian, try to struggle with sin in my own strength, I will slip into the grasp of sin’s power.

To know when we fall back into the old familiar patterns of life living in sin…we must examine ourselves, being completely honest with ourselves about what attitudes, characteristics, thoughts and even emotions are sinful or even in the very slightest tend toward sin.  I have been fiercely independent all my life.  My husband seems to take pleasure at telling me how I am not a good wife or Christian for that matter because I am, in his words, a militant feminist (sometimes he says with a ‘head covering’).  He is relentless in name calling almost every time we get into an argument.  I know what I am.  I know what I want to be.  He demands that I be his idea of a ‘perfect wife.’  I want to aim for being a ‘perfect wife,’ but not his idea of it.  I want to work at being a ‘perfect wife’ by the standards set forth in scripture…it seems my husband can’t get that point through his head.

Anyway, I recognize the sins that ‘so easily besets’ me:  hardheadedness, stubbornness, selfishness, unyielding to the Spirit, fierce independence are just a few of my tendencies toward sin.  And more often than not, I do try to battle these things on my own instead of taking them to the cross and thanking Jesus for His work there and in my heart. 

Notes on verse 15

Paul shares three lessons that he learned in trying to deal with his old sinful desires: (1) Knowledge is not the answer (7:9).  Paul felt fine as long as he did not understand what the law demanded.  When he learned the truth, he knew he was doomed.  (2)  Self-determination (struggling in one’s own strength) doesn’t succeed (7:15).  Paul found himself sinning in ways that weren’t even attractive to him.  (3)  Becoming a Christian does not stamp out all sin and temptation from a person’s life (7:22-25).

Being born again takes a moment of faith, but becoming like Christ is a lifelong process.  Paul compares Christian growth to a strenuous race or fight (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7).  Thus, as Paul has been emphasizing since the beginning of this letter, no onein the world is innocent; no one deserves to be saved – not the pagan who doesn’t know God’s laws, not the Christian or Jew who knows them and tries to keep them.  All of us must depend totally on the work of Christ for our salvation.  We cannot earn it by our good behavior.

The truth of this is such a stark contrast to how most people, including many Christians think…’If I’m good enough….’  How far from the truth that thought is.  Trials grow faith.  You cannot get around it.  Some people go through life, never facing trials, tribulation or any kind of trouble.  We look upon them with envy at how easy their life must be, yet, I certainly feel pity for them and even want to cry because without these things in our life, how would we ever learn to lean solely on God, how would we ever realize that we are not good enough of our own accord and how would we ever recognize the truth of God’s eternal love bestowed upon us through Jesus Christ and His shed blood.  We could easily say this is true, but would it ever be internalized without these things to make us see our true selves, the depravity that we each have within our hearts and minds. 

As I’ve said many times about my husband, he has great knowledge of the Word of God, but he really doesn’t have the understanding of it.  He knows scripture, but it doesn’t reside in His heart.  He knows and loves Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t live within his heart.  I’m not being negative about my husband.  It is apparent in the way he lives and interacts with people.  To be fair, in the past 2 months especially, God has done major work in my husbands heart, but he doesn’t yet grasp the entire scope of God’s revealed Word.  (Please don’t think that I believe we can ever grasp the entire scope of God’s revealed Word.  That is impossible as long as we live here on this earth, in these bodies.  Scriptures are precise in saying that we each can only perceive parts, see 1 Cor 13:12 for one example.)  Agh!  I don’t know what I’m trying to say.  I pray that God still uses my thoughts to spark knowledge directed from the Holy Spirit in your meditations.

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This is more than the cry of one desperate man; it describes the experience of all Christians struggling against sin or trying to please God by keeping rules and laws without the Spirit’s help.  We must never underestimate the power of sin and attempt to fight it in our own strength.  Satan is a crafty tempter, and we have an amazing ability to make excuses.  Instead of trying to overcome sin with our own human willpower, we must take hold of God’s provision for victory over sin:  the Holy Spirit, who lives within us and gives us power.  And when we fall, he lovingly reaches out to help us up.

So, when we recognize how desperate we are, how lowly we are and how we will never be able to stand in our own power against the sin that constantly crops up in our lives, how do we deal with that? 

For me, like I mentioned above, I know what the scriptures say regarding my current situation.  Jesus told the disciples to be willing to forgive 70 times 7 if a brother sins against you, no matter how many times he does the same thing.  I’m certainly tired of the name calling and character assassination from my husband, and I’m fully drained of willpower to take the high road, forgive and move on.  (By the way, I don’t want to paint my husband as an evil monster…I’ve done my share of character assassination towards him.  I don’t have as vivid a memory of that because I wasn’t on the receiving end, I just know that I’m guilty of this too.)  In the past 4 years, I have noticed a pattern in myself and it goes something like this:  I argue, fuss and fight in my own power, he retaliates (or vice versa) and things deteriorate between us.  I get so worn down and out that I quite trying, finally turn to God and simply say, “Lord, I’ve screwed it all up again…I will accept whatever you have decided to do.  Thank you for loving me regardless of my shortcomings.”  I simply trust God in the knowledge of vision and ministry that He gave me two years ago and wait on Him to work in and through me to accomplish His goals…not mine.  I trust God.  I’m not trustworthy…

Note on verses 17-20

“The devil made me do it.”  “I didn’t do it; the sin within me did it.”  These sound like good excuses for sin, but we are responsible for our actions.  We must never use the power of sin or Satan as an excuse, because they are defeated enemies.  Without Christ’s help, sin is stronger than we are, and sometimes we are unable to defend ourselves against its attacks.  That is why we should never stand up to sin all alone.  Jesus Christ, who has conquered sin once and for all, promises to fight by our side.  If we look to him for help, we will not have to give in to sin.

From the time of Adam and Eve in the garden, we have had an uncanny ability to cast blame effortlessly on others (or other things) instead of ourselves.  We can combat the sin of blaming others by simply taking responsibility of our actions, thoughts and words.  It is by far easier to take every thought captive, thereby hopefully keeping us from sinning in the first place, but if we do sin, recognize the sin, accept the responsibility of that sin, take it to Jesus at the cross, thank Him for his shed blood and for His forgiveness and then ask Him to help us endure the consequences of our sins.  We were never promised to be relieved of the consequences of our sins.  But we have a Savior that is so full of love for us that, not only did He die for our sins, He has also promised to endure every situation with us, including enduring the consequences of our sins by walking through our trials with us.  Not all trials are brought about by sin though.  I’m simply trying to make a concept clear about God’s grace and mercy, His love and faithfulness.  We are not worthy, yet He loves us anyway…

Notes on verses 23-25

The “law at work within” is the sin nature deep within us.  This is our vulnerability to sin; it refers to everything within us that is more loyal to our old way of selfish living than to God.

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This inward struggle with sin was as real for Paul as it is for us.  From Paul we learn what to do about it.  Whenever Paul felt lost, he would return to the beginning of his spiritual life, remembering that he had already been freed by Jesus Christ.  When you feel confused and overwhelmed by sin’s appeal, follow Paul’s example:  Thank God that he has given you freedom through Jesus Christ.  Let the reality of Christ’s power lift you up to real victory over sin.

This is hard to do, especially if we are self-absorbed as many people are.  I know that I have a hard time doing this when I’m in the midst of a trying situation.  Yet, it is imperative that I remember to go back to the cross and remember all that Jesus has done for me.  Without reminding myself of this, then I potentially risk staying in a muddled frame of mind indefinitely.  This is why it is important to share our burdens with other Christians.  We all need to be reminded and get that ‘swift kick in the pants’ from time to time.  When we can share with others our burdens, they can pray for us, they can cry with us and most importantly they can remind us to look up to Jesus instead of looking around at our present calamity.  Now, from my own experience, as much as I need to hear these things, I tend to wallow in my own self-pity until I’m ready to get over myself and remember Christ in my life.  That is sin too.  But, even in that Jesus gives us our freedom and through that He shows His great love for us. 

I don’t claim to know everything, but I know that I have been given a very special opportunity with my life.  I can learn from my past mistakes and hopefully improve with each passing trial.  I was fairly upset last night, crying and so forth, because we are once again at an impasse in our marriage.  But, I was much more quick to thank Jesus for all the work He has done in my life, our marriage and my husband’s life.  This may very well be the time we part for good.  But then again, I fully believe the vision and mission that God gave me two years ago and know that one day, even if we are over now, God will reunite us for the work He has designed for us to do…I don’t know when, how or all the trials that I will undergo in between…I just know my God and that He loves me and will be with me through it all…

I’m not perfect.  I never will be while in this life.  But one day, God will make me into what He has envisioned for me all along.  I have a long way to go before I get there.  The road is long and hard.  But by the grace of God, I will make, for His sake and glory.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

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But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.  He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.  The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.  Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?”

“Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”

And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”

Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.  Acts 5:1-11

Hello again.  I’m sorry that I haven’t been writing lately…  I have considered what is prohibiting me from writing, and I have concluded that it is simply self.  I have not been writing because I’m lazy, I am not motivated and am wallowing in self, not like I have in the past, but a different kind of wallowing.  That said, it is high time that I get back into the Word and begin each day like I used to, with the Word of God and meditation which should lead to me writing.  So, here we go.

Today, I opened to Acts 5.  I really didn’t want to write about Ananias and Sapphira.  I think I’ve written about them in the past.  But, I decided that I should.  I could easily brush it off and not write anything, so I stuck to my guns and asked God to open my mind to whatever I should learn today.

I read through the notes in my study bible like I normally do and then I thought about my most recent wonderings about scriptures.  In the past I’ve written both about Sarah and Abigail.  I’ve had a conversation in recent weeks with a brother that I work with about how we (we as in women) have to learn a fine line of living like Sarah and Abigail.  He stopped me in my tracks and said that it isn’t a combining of the two, but doing one or the other…I simply don’t know if I agree with that.

So, while I was meditating on Ananias and Sapphira, my mind inevitably turned to Sarah and Abigail.  Now you know the basis for my musings today…let’s take a look at the notes real quick…

Note on verse 1ff

In Acts 5:1-8:3 we see both internal and external problems facing the early church.  Inside, there were dishonesty (5:1-11), greed (5:3), and administrative headaches (6:1-7).  Outside, the church was being pressured by persecution.  While church leaders were careful and sensitive in dealing with the internal problems, there was not much they could do to prevent the external pressures.  Through it all, the leaders kept their focus on what was most important – spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Note on verse 3

Even after the Holy Spirit had come, the believers were not immune to Satan’s temptations.  Although Satan was defeated by Christ at the cross, he was still actively trying to make the believers stumble – as he does today (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8).  Satan’s overthrow is inevitable, but it will not occur until the last days, when Christ returns to judge the world (Revelation 20:10).

It is evident that Satan is still around causing disharmony in the church and in individual lives.  When Christendom is criticized and when Christians are called hypocrites, you can be assured that Satan is in the midst.  We all fall prey to our advisary at one time or another.  We are weak.  When we are found to have inconsistent actions with our stated beliefs, that is Satan working in us.  When we haven’t guarded ourselves appropriately with the shed blood of Jesus we deceive ourselves by thinking we are either okay or there is nothing inconsistent with they way we are living.  As Christians, we are held to a higher standard and it isn’t just Christians that ‘know’ that standard.  The whole world knows the standard and thereby can declare us hypocrites because we don’t do what is readily acknowledged as Christian characteristics.  And people say there is no God!  Ah, I better stop before I get too comfortable on my soap box…

I fail.  I have failed over and over, sometimes on the same thing.  I wish I could get the lesson the first time, but I’m very hard headed.  It is my failures that Christians and non-Christians alike revert to calling me a hypocrite.  And herein is the line that must be walked as a follower of Jesus Christ…we must recognize that we are all hypocrites at one time or another in our walk with Christ.  Over the length of our time with Jesus, as His follower, we will sometimes fail, we will sin, we will not be on the mark with our beliefs, yet, over that same length of time, He brings to our attention exactly where we are wrong and have headed down the wrong path.  Sometimes, it takes more than a ‘still small voice’ to stop us in our tracks and get us heading in the right direction.  Sometimes, it takes life shattering revelations to make us realize how seriously wrong we are in our actions or beliefs. 

That is the essence of the Christian life.  When we can resolutely recognize that we have sinned and rectify our behavior and realign ourselves with scripture, though we have tainted our walk, our testimony for Jesus has become stronger because we can proclaim that we were walking in sin and Jesus, only Jesus, was able to correct us and make us right.  We cannot change our hearts by ourselves.  Changes of the heart for the good originate from God Himself.

Note on verse 3ff

The sin Ananias and Sapphira committed was not stinginess or holding back part of the money – it was their choice whether or not to sell the land and how much to give.  Their sin was lying to God and God’s people, saying they gave the whole amount but holding back some for themselves and trying to make themselves appear more generous than they really were.  This act was judged harshly because dishonesty, greed, and covetousness are destructive in a church, and preventing the Holy Spirit from working effectively.  All lying is bad, but when we lie to try to deceive God and his people about our relationship with him, we destroy our testimony for Christ.

As I’ve spoken briefly of in the past few posts (or at least I did, it’s been a while since I’ve written), things are going much better for my marriage.  The Lord, praise His holy name and I thank Him for it, has dissolved the resident anger and bitterness towards my husband that I had been carrying around for so long.  That doesn’t mean that I no longer hurt, in fact, there are times when he says something or does something that brings those feelings back with a vengeance, it simply means that I can talk with him and look at him without malice towards him.  Thank God for His work in my heart.  But, God hasn’t stopped there.  God has been working in my husbands heart too!  It is exciting to see this new and improved creature of God’s making unfold before my very eyes!  Now, it is true, we seem to do the dance of two steps forward and one step back…But, we’re moving in the general direction of righteousness! 

There is a situation, one that I cannot speak of at this time, within the dynamics of our marriage that I simply cannot agree to.  My husband has deceived himself in believing that he is right in what he has planned, yet, no matter of scripture will influence him and make him realize that his very plan is against God’s Word.  And the reason I speak of this, even cryptically is because in order for his plan to work, I have to go along with it.  I have fought for 3 or so years, every time it comes up, with scripture as to why it is impossible for me to go along with it.  Nothing has deterred him from implementing this plan.  In fact, he demands that I must do as he says because he is my authority and that he will take the heat, not me because I am simply doing my duty of submitting to him!!!!!!  Hence, the Sarah/Abigail musings and the story of Ananias and Sapphira. 

How do we, as women, manage our lives in such a way that we, like Sarah, can submit to our husbands even when they clearly aren’t trusting in God and still be found righteous because of our trust in God’s protection against the foolishness of our husbands, and yet, still be like Abigail and do the right thing, disregarding the fallout of doing it in direct violation of our husbands demands of submission and still be found righteous?  (I know, that was a really long sentence!  Sorry.)

Then, here we are with dire consequences of the decisions made between a husband and wife in the early days of the church.  Death was the result of the scheming of these two.  Sure, we don’t fall dead when we go along with our husbands absurdities and outright distrust, mistrust and dishonoring of God, but if it was worthy of death when Peter stood against them, isn’t it the same today? 

Is trying to win our husbands over with scripture when they have something in mind to do that is contrary to God’s Word enough to cover us when we in the end submit? 

I finally got tired of arguing with my husband about this particular situation that he is forcing upon us as a family and said, I won’t hinder you, but I cannot be the vehicle by which you’re plans are manifested.  Even that didn’t deter him, he still implemented his plans.  I decided to trust in God that I had used scripture to get through to my husband, which he deftly sidestepped, and that God would take matters into His hands.  So, I am waiting for the ball to get rolling and am praying that God will step in any moment now and put a stop to my husbands foolishness…But, the more that the time drags on, the more I doubt if I’m approaching things appropriately.  I think about Sarah and her complete obedience to Abraham, lying for him when he asked her to to save his own skin.  And I think about Abigail and how she saved her household with her swift but bold actions and that by her very action, she seemingly defied her husband’s wishes, yet was also counted as righteous. 

It all comes down to this and the story of Ananias and Sapphira puts it into certain persepective…Is there deception?  That right there is enough to know that it would be against God’s Word.  Who is meant to be deceived?  I believe that a believer is supposed to live transparently.  That would mean that deception, which God detests, is completely out of the question on any level.  If you can’t talk about it in the open, then it probably shouldn’t be done or thought about or said.  However, too many Christians are so closed about their goings-on and therefore we often times live in deception.  This goes without saying, because I can’t open up to you about this specific situation just yet, then it isn’t right, at least in my mind.  When God finally puts an end to this, then I’ll be able to talk freely.  Please remember, I’m walking the line of being the submissive, supportive wife (Sarah) and still doing what I know to be right (Abigail).  Hence, I don’t talk about the details because my husbands soul is more important than me being right and garnering your support or being justified in my position through you.  I know that it makes things as clear as mud, but if I can’t have a positive influence on those closest to me, how in the world could I ever hope to have a positive influence on perfect strangers?

Okay…enough of that…

Note on verse 11

God’s judgment of Ananias and Sapphira produced shock and fear among the believers, making them realize how seriously God regards sin in the church.

Does it shock you when you read this scripture about the punishment given to these two believers?  If it doesn’t it should.  Even though we don’t hear anything about instant judgment in this day and age, we will be judged on that final day, when Christ returns.  And though our sins have already been forgiven, we will still be held accountable for our actions, our words, our thoughts etc.  We will have to give an account for every moment of our lives.  We cannot possibly remember every detail of our lives, yet every second of our lives have already been recorded in God’s great book and He will bring to memory everything and we will need to respond to Him.  Be thankful that Jesus paid the price for all that we have done and do, because without His sacrifice, we would never be allowed to enter into His rest and spend eternity with Him. 

This story is a stern warning to me, as it should be to all believers, that God doesn’t deal lightly with sin.  He may delay His judgment, but it isn’t done lightly.  As I try to be a righteous woman, submitted to God and do all things as unto the Lord, through submission to my husband, I know that without the belief that God can handle this situation and that He will mold it to His glory, I am nothing and I am a sinner.  Only by God’s grace will I know what to do, what to say and how to react.  Only through believing that He orders my steps will I know that I will not be mislead.  Even if I make a wrong choice, a mistake or even if I fall of the horse and sin, God can and will correct me and make things turn out for His glory.  If I go done the path of righteousness, things will be easy.  If I fall of on the wrong path, things won’t be easy.  But either way, God will ultimately get the glory.  I trust that God will keep me from being foolish and from sinning. 

I still don’t know how to mix the attributes of Sarah and Abigail to live a life of righteousness as a wife to my husband, a daughter of the greatest King and the mightiest God, but at the end of my life, God will have brought me through it all and made me righteous through the work He chose to do in my heart and life.

I know that I cannot willingly agree to deception of any kind.  So, God, the master creator, can be creative with how He chooses to open an outlet for me.  I can’t wait to see what He chooses to do in my situation.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

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Make sacred garments for Aaron that are glorious and beautiful.  Instruct all the skilled craftsmen whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom. Have them make garments for Aaron that will distinguish him as a priest set apart for my service.  Exodus 28:2-3

Note on verse 3

The tailors who made Aaron’s garments were given wisdom by God in order to do their task.  All of us have special skills.  God wants to fill us with his Spirit so we will use them for his glory.  Think about your special talents and abilities and the ways you could use them for God’s work in the world.  A talent must be used, or it will diminish.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.  I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts.  He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze.  He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!

“And I have personally appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make…  Exodus 31:1-6

Note on verses 1-11

God regards all the skills of his people, not merely those with theological or ministerial abilities.  Our tendency is to regard only those who are up front and in leadership roles.  God gave Bezalel and Oholiab Spirit-filled abilities in artistic craftsmanship.  Take notice of all the abilities God gives his people.  Don’t diminish your skills if they are not like Moses’ and Aaron’s. 

‘Cursed is anyone who carves or casts an idol and secretly sets it up. These idols, the work of craftsmen, are detestable to the Lord.’  Deuteronomy 27:15

At the church that I’ve been going to part time with my husband, we are in a series entitles “How to Kill Relationships and Irritate People.”  The first Sunday our pastor talked on pride, his sermon was entitled “Be Full of Yourself.”  The next Sunday he talked on anger and that sermon was entitled “Use Anger to Get What You Want.”  I’m sure he has outlined these topics each time, but I don’t recall the next three topics.  (He has stated there are only 5…I think.)  In any case, if you would like to listen to the sermons you can go to www.yourchurch.com and click on the ‘Sermons’ tab.  The sermons are in order from most recent to distant past.

Okay, enough of that for the moment.  Why am I pasting in scripture regarding craftsmen and their gifts?  If you hand in there with me, you’ll hopefully figure it out by the end of my post.

About 15 years ago, I stumbled upon a talent that I never knew I had, the gift of drawing.  I am an analytical artist.  In other words, what I see I can draw (or paint or model etc.)  I’m not so good at drawing things from my mind.  I am also very timid about drawing the human figure.  I know that with practice I would be good with that too; however, as a perfectionist, I have a hard time following through with it because if I can’t get it right the first time or two, then I don’t want to do it at all.  (I feel like a failure.) 

It seems that I have fallen into a kind of rut…for years now, I start something and then never finish it.  (Again, that is in part due to being a perfectionist.  If it isn’t finished then I don’t have to feel like I can’t accomplish perfection if it turns out ‘not right.’)  I know, this is all psychological, but I trump myself every time with it.  It is really disgusting.

So, again, why do I bring this up?  You may recall that I have a desire to start a business.  In fact, I believe that God has called me to a particular women’s ministry that will be supported by my craftsmenship.  The problem for me is that I haven’t had much in the way of support from my family in particular and only a modest amount from friends.  I know that much of it is because they don’t have the same intensity for my vision, or even they don’t have any vision at all, so it is hard to support me and be enthusiastic regarding my “whims.”  Part of the problem, I suspect is that I have such a diverse range of artistic passions, drawing, watercolor paintings, photography, graphic design, and even limited fashion design, that many, especially my husband, can’t get on board because of how wide my range of passions are.

So what?  Okay, two weeks ago, we heard a sermon on pride.  And I have a lot of pride, especially when it comes to my artistic talent.  I have always been the type to give my best when others recognize my efforts.  Normally, these days, not too many recognize my talents.  And then there is the anger issue that we heard a sermon on last Sunday.  And I have a lot of anger, I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t filled with anger.

Since the sermon on Sunday (and for many years now) I have asked God to purge anger, among other things, from my heart and mind.  But, it is always there, my constant companion.  I know that it is there because of me.  I, for whatever reason, simply won’t let go of it.  God wants to relieve me of the burden of anger and I have begged Him many times to take it away from me, but I have erected my own stumbling blocks that I just simply cannot see.  It is like I’m blind to my own stupidity or something…

Okay, now for the good part.  Today, while driving to the library to drop off some overdue materials, God revealed something to me that is so profound that I simply must share it, confessing to you as the scriptures command…Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  James 5:16a

It is true that I am my own worst enemy.  I have coveted praise from those closest to me.  I have desired for others to commend me on my talents.  When I haven’t received the praise that I have desired, I tend to not do it or not complete it, whatever ‘it’ is. 

Immediately, upon God’s revelation this morning, thanked God for humbling me and humbly asked Him to forgive me.  But, that wasn’t enough.  I felt that I needed to confess to others, including and especially to my husband, which I’ll do tonight.  I really want to do it in person instead of over the phone because of the gravity of this revelation. 

All last week I was digesting the sermon about pride and trying to apply it to my life.  I couldn’t seem to break through the thick barrier of, none other than, pride to see the depth of the pride.  However, I did concede that pride is the root of all sin.  If I get right down to it, tracing all surface problems, traits and characteristics down to the core of what makes it a problem, more often than not, I have found that pride is the root.  Pride in self.  Pride in physical attributes.  Pride in mental agility.  Pride in gifts and talents.  Pride is such an underlying, motivating factor in our daily lives that we don’t even realize nor acknowledge its existence in our lives.

I was convicted to confess to God this morning that I have taken serious pride in my artistic talents.  I have taken all the glory.  I have accomplished major feats in teaching myself different aspects of creativity, and it isn’t me, but God who has so graciously provided and even at times enhanced my creative talents.  Just like in the selected scripture passages above from the Old Testament.  I wish to be filled with divine inspiration…Instruct all the skilled craftsmen whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom.  And not just going it alone and trying to ‘make it work.’  It never will in my own strength and knowledge, but it must be done through the Spirit and for the Lord Jesus Christ and not for myself. 

My business will take off when I become effective at keeping myself out of the picture and thinking only about God and His glory.  Otherwise, I am cursed… ‘Cursed is anyone who carves or casts an idol and secretly sets it up. These idols, the work of craftsmen, are detestable to the Lord.’  As works from my hands, I have exalted myself and my talents instead of God’s gracious gift to me, I have cursed myself by setting my talents up as an idol in my life.  Until I recognize and correctly apply these scriptures, I will continually be frustrated in my endeavor to do God’s work.

This is to say that I have finally pinpointed a source of anger that has continually resided in my heart for years.  I recall in my freshman year at college, during the fall break, an affront to my pride.  It resulted in negative reactions on my part.  Nothing that I’m proud of, but is a prime example of what I’m talking about.  Let me paraphrase the story.

I came home to enjoy a family gathering.  I graduated Valedictorian in high school and when I went to college, I held two jobs and full time school.  So given my high school career, my grade report was a topic to discuss.  I had all A’s and B’s.  Even though I got straight A’s with an occasional B in high school, I thought A’s and B’s were great for the load I was carrying my first semester in college.  My step dad didn’t think so.  He immediately told me I had to do better.  There was an explosive argument and I slammed the door and left.  That forever put a rift in our relationship, which up until that point had been a decent relationship.  I was angry!  I decided right then and there, if A’s and B’s weren’t good enough, then why in the world should I try so hard…I’d never please him. 

One of my flaws is that whenever I feel that I have disappointed someone else, I take it extremely hard and tend to pull away from that person.  This was part of the case…He hurt my pride, by telling me I wasn’t doing good enough and then I stopped trying.  I pulled farther away from him because I had let him down.  That was actually the beginning of a continu0us cycle of not finishing things because I didn’t want to let people down. 

I still have this problem today.  Because I don’t finish things, I feel incompetent.  Because of my inability to provide good quality effort at home, on the job etc, I feel inadequate for so much.  It all has to do with my hurt ego, my pride.  I know I can, but I won’t because I refuse to be hurt by others opinions of my self, my work etc. 

So, today, I’m going to start praising and thanking God for the gifts and talents that He has given me.  I am not worthy of such gifts and talents, and I don’t want to focus on what I can do with my gifts and talents to make myself feel better and to gain the praise and adoration from my friends, family and strangers.  Instead, I will glorify and honor God most high, who is the perfect Creator, full of creativity beyond my understanding, and willing to bestow grace on me to humbly be creative for His glory.  I have a natural talent that God has blessed me with.  Now, I pray to the Lord to bless me and fill me with the spirit of wisdom concerning the creative gifts He has already given to me.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

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