Wonders in the Wilderness!

Exodus 13:18- But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea; the sons of Israel went up in battle array (orderly ranks, marching formation) out of the land of Egypt. NKJV

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The wilderness is pictured as dry and barren land. But there are many types of wilderness in scripture and worldwide. A wilderness can have mountains, forests, or even marshlands, depending on the location of the terrain. But it is definitely agreed that the wilderness is typically sparsely populated. Therefore, spiritually when we think of the wilderness, we tend to think of being in a time of testing, temptation, or even discouragement. It is a time when believers feel they are under a direct attack from the enemy. During this time, many people claim to struggle just to make it from day to day! But there is great news of great wonders that happen only in the wilderness.

The psalmist wrote:

You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip  with abundance. They drop on the pastures of the wilderness,
and the little hills rejoice on every side.

Psalm 65:11-12 NKJV

God’s paths drip with abundance, and that abundance drops on the pastures of the wilderness. That’s a mind-blowing analogy. The wilderness has always been painted as a desolate place, but the word of God says that He drops abundance on the pastures of the wilderness. Let’s explore how.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba. 

Genesis 21:14 NKJV

Hagar wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba after Abraham and Sarah cast her out of the camp with Ishmael. After drinking all the water, she was provided, she walked away from her son and began to cry. Her life had changed in 24 hours. She had gone from being Abraham’s concubine, bearer of his firstborn, to an outcast. Where she was once treated like royalty, with plenty to eat and others to do her bidding, she was alone, desperate, and without hope! But in the Wilderness of Beersheba, she had an encounter with God. God promised her that He would make a great nation of her son Ishmael and then showed her a well. She and Ishmael went on to live in the Wilderness of Paran; he became an archer and married to begin that nation. Wonderful things happen in the wilderness when we trust God!

And David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness, and remained in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand

1 Samuel 23:14 NKJV

David found the wilderness to be a place of refuge. Saul looked for him daily, but God hid David in the wilderness. When the leaders of Ziph shared David’s location with Saul, David escaped to the wilderness of Moan. When Saul found him there and surrounded him to destroy him, a messenger came bearing news that the Philistines had entered the land. Saul rushed away, and David and his men were spared, and they called the place a “Rock of Escape.” There will undoubtedly be times in the wilderness that are full of trouble and opposition, but when we trust God, He will make a way of escape for us!

The children of Israel spent a lot of time in the wilderness. As they left Egypt, they moved through the Wilderness of Shur.

So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 

Exodus 15:22 NKJV

While traveling through the Wilderness of Shur, they couldn’t find water. Finally, after three days, they found the waters of Marah. But those waters were bitter. It’s not surprising to me, nor do I miss the irony of how the wilderness experience can cause the waters to become bitter. But bitter waters did not cause God to move His hand from the people of Israel. No! It was just the opposite. He moved His hand on that water, and it became sweet as Moses tossed a tree into it! The tree of life has a way of making every bitter thing sweet! That’s the gospel truth!

 And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt.

Exodus 16:1 NKJV

Shortly after their experience at the Wilderness of Shur, they ended up in the Wilderness of Sin. Complaining was on the menu. They weren’t able to find fruit in the wilderness or enough meat in the wilderness. Lack was all they saw, and so they complained in the wilderness. But God is a longsuffering, God. He puts up with us, to a certain extent, while we are in the wilderness. God began to provide manna from on high for them. He did so until they entered the Promised Land. Although they railed at Him and His servants Moses and Aaron, God took care of them.

 Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. 

2 Chronicles 20:16 NKJV

Jehosophat was being threatened by the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. But Jehosophat sought God. God told him that his enemies were at the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel and that he was to go out against. But God told him something more extraordinary.

You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”

2 Chronicles 20:17 NKJV

Jehosophat may have had enemies in the wilderness, but he also had God. God told Jehosophat to position himself, to stand still and see God’s deliverance! In the wilderness!

What have we learned about the wilderness? God is with us in the wilderness when we feel discouraged and alone like Hagar did! He has a plan for our life, and being thrown into the wilderness doesn’t change it. Keep looking for Him in the wilderness!

We have seen that the wilderness can be a place of refuge and deliverance! David wasn’t living in the palace, he was hiding in the wilderness, but God had his back! And God had his heart! I wrote a blog years ago about God having our back and wanting our hearts! (Check it out!) The wilderness doesn’t have to be scary, not when you know the Lord. Let your wilderness be a place of refuge!

We saw that the wilderness could cause bitterness to spring up in our hearts! But we want the Living Water of God springing up in our hearts, not bitterness. If you notice it trying to set in because you are in the wilderness, reach for the tree of life that turns bitter water into sweet water.

Also, we realize that being in the wilderness can cause us to complain. God doesn’t like it when we complain. We must repent and ask Him to teach us how to be grateful and not complainers. He provided for them in the wilderness and will provide for us!

Lastly, we saw that there are enemies in the wilderness. However, like Jehosophat, we need to seek God when the enemies of our souls try to attack in the wilderness. He will say to us, “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”!

Some blogs are easier to write than others. Some blogs minister to me before they are ever posted. Such was this blog. I needed a reminder that while I may be in the wilderness, God is with me, and great things have happened in the wilderness! Wonderful Jesus!

The Responsibilities of Fatherhood!

Ephesians 6:4- And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. NKJV

Susberry Family Photo

My father passed away when I was about 13 years old. We didn’t have a fun life together, and I cannot remember getting a hug, but I loved my dad. He did the best he knew how to do with what he had, growing up as the son of a sharecropper with little education. He provided shelter, food, and clothing for his seven children as a construction worker and stressed the importance of education. Going to church on Sundays was the expectation, and honoring the sabbath with little activity was the norm. It was our life, and I am grateful for the years we had him.

In the photo above is the Susberry family. My father-in-law, his five children, and most of our kids. We were celebrating one of his birthdays. He lived to be 93 years old. Contrary to media reports, some black men love their families and do well by them. I honor the men on both sides of my family tree who have been great fathers and continue to father their children to the best of their abilities.

My niece locked herself in the bathroom when she was about four years old. Her dad was working, and we were visiting from Florida. She began crying and calling out for her dad when she realized she was locked in the bathroom. Her mom tried to coax her into opening the bathroom door, but she just cried, saying she wanted her dad. My husband got a ladder, climbed the bathroom window, and let himself in. When my niece was freed from the bathroom and my sister-in-law wrapped her in her arms, she kept saying she wanted her daddy! Today, as an adult, she is still close to her dad!

Paul gives instructions to fathers as relevant today as they were when he penned them. Paul’s first tidbit is that fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath. Children are to honor their parents and obey them, but parents must realize that their children are people and should be handled with care.

When Paul wrote these words, children, like women, were not regarded as they are today. At that time, fathers could sell their children, marry them off to whomever they wanted to, whenever they wanted to, and rule their lives with absolute authority. I remember teaching about the Roman Empire, and when we talked about fathers’ relationships with their children, my students were shocked! They couldn’t understand why a father would be so harsh, with no repercussions and no help for the children. Thank God for Jesus!

That’s why Paul wrote these words: don’t provoke your children to wrath! The rules and expectations fathers have for their children at five should be modified when they become teenagers and again when they are young adults. If we expect them to live under the same rules all their lives, we will provoke them to anger. Even if Paul hadn’t said this, just live long enough, and you will see it! You may have even been that child that rebelled against unfair rules!

Harsh discipline causes children to become resentful. No discipline causes children to feel unloved. Fathers, who love the Lord, will be in constant prayer about their children, responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit and making adjustments in their parenting style as needed.

I heard my father tell my brother one day that if he didn’t get his act together, only two licks would pass. He would hit my brother, and my brother would hit the floor! That’s harsh from my perspective and not the wisest way of handling discipline, but he got the point across. And maybe, just maybe, it was what he needed to hear at that time!

Another way fathers can provoke a child to wrath is by withholding praise. Children thrive on accolades. Hearing a word of encouragement from their dad makes them feel like they can conquer the world. When children think they are doing everything they can to be the person their father would admire or love, and he never tells them they have already accomplished that by just being, they become resentful. Many adults suffer from inadequacies because they could never please their fathers. Paul encourages fathers to realize the influence they have over their children.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with lovingkindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4 AMP

The Amplified version gives us further insight into what Paul was saying. After telling fathers what their behavior should not be towards their children, Paul told them what they should do. Don’t be harsh, but be kind! Don’t be indifferent towards them, but show them lovingkindness. Don’t be abusive, but discipline them. Today, discipline is considered harsh, especially if you use a belt or some other object to chastise your children. Paul isn’t talking about the type of beating you do to hurt another person, hospitalize them, or even destroy them. He’s talking about the discipline that says, “if you do this, then the consequence will be this,” and sticking to it with love.

Then Paul instructs fathers to teach their children about God. He hasn’t changed topics. Discipline is very much a biblical principle, but we discipline according to the word of God. When my husband saw that one of our daughters was trying to pull away into her own world, he came up with a solution. Instead of berating her, badgering her, or trying to make her hang out with the family, he pushed into her space and made a point of talking with her. He encouraged her to choose a devotional and to begin having personal devotional time to stay encouraged in the Lord. He lovingly drew her back into what was necessary for her growth, the family! By instructing her through God’s word!

Fathers have a huge responsibility towards their children. As the head of the home, they are to be encouragers and disciplinarians at the same time. Fathers are to set boundaries and expectations while realizing there will be times when their children will miss it. As much as they are to discipline with consistency and firmness, they should also understand when mercy and forgiveness must be extended. A balanced father doesn’t have to be a Christian, but a Christian should be a balanced father, leading and guiding his children to a love relationship with their Heavenly Father! Happy Father’s Day to all our fathers! Wonderful Jesus!

Tangled Webs!

Genesis 31:6- And you know that with all my might I have served your father. Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. NKJV

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I was in Mrs. Wascom’s English class when I first heard and thereby learned Sir Walter Scott’s famous quote:

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

Sir Walter Scott, 1808, Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field

His tale did not make my long-term memory, but these words are etched in my mind. I’m unsure where he learned this vital lesson, but I see its truth woven through scriptures and life.

No one wants to be deceived, even if they have deceived others in the past. Few people like to admit that they were deceived as if it shows a weakness in their character, not that of the deceiver. If we live long enough, someone will definitely try to deceive us. It doesn’t reflect us unless we refuse to admit that we are easily deceived and ask others to keep us accountable.

Jacob was considered a deceiver by Esau. His experience with his brother’s antics was not positive, but Esau always played into Jacob’s hands. As a man governed by his passions, he didn’t appear to ever stop and think about what he was doing. So Jacob got over on him enough times that he felt his brother was a deceiver.

On the other hand, Isaac probably didn’t have that experience with Jacob, so it probably never occurred to him that Jacob would practice deceit on him. Maybe we should give some credit for the plan to deceive Isaac to Jacob’s mother, Rebekah. In either case, Jacob pulled a fast one on his father to obtain the blessing. At one point, during the planning, Jacob expressed his fears to his mother:

And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.”

Genesis 27:11-12 NKJV

Even with his reservations, Jacob executed the plan and deceived his father, Isaac. I can imagine the disappointment Isaac must have felt when he realized that his son had deceived him. Jacob didn’t just lie to Isaac; he created an elaborate ruse to make his father believe that which was not true, to obtain what he wanted. And when Jacob met Laban, his uncle, he reaped what he sowed.

And you know that with all my might I have served your father.  Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times…

Genesis 31:6-7 NKJV

Ten times Laban deceived Jacob and changed his wages. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us all of them, we are told that Jacob served seven years for Rachel, was given Leah instead, and had to serve seven more years for Rachel. We are told of the wages of the flock being changed on several occasions, although not how they were changed. Once Jacob opened the door as a deceiver, the web of deception began to draw him into things he could have lived without.

There’s another person who comes to mind, who weaved a web of deception, Haman. Haman was promoted by the king to be over the kingdom’s princes. Part of the honor given to him was that when he arrived at the king’s gates, his servants bowed to him. That is, everyone except Mordecai, Queen Esther’s uncle.

Haman was infuriated that Mordecai, the Jew, would so blatantly disrespect his authority. So Haman came up with a plan to destroy Mordecai. Haman deceived the king by telling him that a group of people in the land did not obey his laws and that they should be destroyed. The king agreed, signed a decree, and sealed it with his ring.

Mordecai told Esther and requested that she speak with the king. Esther went before the king, at the risk of peril, to help her people by inviting Haman and the king to a banquet. Haman was so excited that he shared the news with his friends and family. Not only had he been at a feast with the king and queen, but he was to return for another one the next day. Then he saw Mordecai, and again, Mordecai showed him no respect. His wife and the others encouraged him to build a gallow to hang Mordecai on because surely this invitation meant great things were ahead for him.

Only things didn’t go according to Haman’s plans. First, the king wanted to honor Mordecai and asked Haman what should he do. Haman gave a list of things the king should do, thinking it was about him. Only the king had Haman hasten to do those things for Mordecai. Then at the banquet, Esther told the king that Haman wanted to kill her since he had that decree established against the Jews. When the king took a walk, Haman tried to plead with Esther. But the king returned to the room and found him on her couch and became furious! So instead of being honored, his deception returned to him, and he was hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.

God has a way of untangling webs. He did so for Jacob. Despite what Jacob had done, God still had a plan for his life. Jacob still had to go through the consequences of his actions, but God, the Merciful God, was with Him. On the other hand, Haman suffered the judgment and wrath of the king for his deception. The difference between the two men was that Jacob was God’s man who had erred and repented. Haman was against God’s man and had no repentance on his mind.

When I was in the military, I had a supervisor who went out of his way to undermine me. When I arrived on the base, he told me, “I don’t like women. I don’t like southerners. And I don’t like Blacks.” He said he meant it as a joke, but it wasn’t funny. Later, when it came time for fitreps (evaluations), he told the CO (commanding officer) that I did not deserve a good rating and made something up about me. The CO didn’t believe him and decided to investigate.

My new supervisor recalled me telling him what the other guy had said. He reported that and my work ethic since knowing me, which aligned with the CO’s current opinion of me. The CO was livid! So much so that he had the man removed from our base, and he was to be investigated for racism. Before leaving, that man came and begged me to recant my version, saying that he was only joking. But he wasn’t joking when trying to deceive the CO. He wasn’t joking when he lied about my character. And he wasn’t joking then.

No one likes to be deceived! But be assured that the one who does the deception never gets away without payment. God sees! He never approves, and He knows how to extract payment. On the flip side of things, we should not be the one who goes about deceiving others. God isn’t pleased with deception because He is the God of truth! If you have knowingly participated in a deception, repent like Jacob did, and get it right with the Father. He may not erase the consequences, but He will forgive you! Wonderful Jesus!

The Beauty of Holiness!

1 Chronicles 16:29-Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! NKJV

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We think of a lot of things as beautiful. We recognize beautiful people, beautiful homes, beautiful places, and even beautiful words. Such was the case when David watched the Levites place the ark of the covenant in the tent:

Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!

1 Chronicles 16:29 NKJV

As I woke this morning, this was one of my first thoughts. Worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness. As I have thought about that intermittently throughout the day, I couldn’t help but want to blog about His holiness.

Hannah worshipped Him, acknowledging His holiness, after He gave her Samuel.

“No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.

1 Samuel 2:2 NKJV

Moses sang these words after crossing the Red Sea in safety and watching the destruction of the Egyptians:

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Exodus 15:11 NKJV

John, in the book of Revelation, saw a sea of people who had overcome the beast rejoice with these words:

Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone  are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.”

Revelation 15:4 NKJV

God set Himself apart from everything and everyone in the uniqueness of His character as the Most Holy God. His very nature is that of holiness. Everything He touches becomes holy because He is holiness personified. As people worshipped Him in the scriptures, they acknowledged He was the God of holiness. Songs were sung of His holiness. Prayers were prayed that mentioned His holiness. His name even includes His attribute of holiness, the Most Holy God!

Yet, today in 2022, we often forget, as people under grace, the significance of His holiness. God called out to Moses one day and as he approached, God said:

“Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 

Exodus 3:5 NKJV

The ground was made holy, and God told Moses to take off his shoes to walk on that holy ground. God told Moses to construct the tabernacle in the wilderness. Everything in the tabernacle was declared holy. Every item, every piece of garment, and every room was holy because it was the place where God’s Spirit would dwell and commune with His people.

Today, if we are honest with ourselves, we have lost the reverence of God that was once noted and expected in the house of God. I realize that ritualism isn’t the way to honor the beauty of His holiness. However, there should be something majestic and worshipful, about the house of God, for if God is there, it is a place of holiness. We should refrain from treating God’s house like our house. People have begun to treat the church as just another building to conduct business. Jesus was not happy with that attitude in the New Testament and I’m pretty sure He hasn’t changed.

When I was growing up, I thought the elders of the church were a bit extreme in their attitude about the sanctuary and the pulpit. But during that timeframe of history, few churches worried about burglaries because people feared the house of God. There was a reverence even amongst the heathens that caused them to pause when it came to desecrating the church. Yes, there were those who overlooked it then as they do now, but today there appears to be little reverence from the people of God, and even less from the ungodly.

I spoke of His name being Holy! Some wouldn’t even utter His name because it was so holy! Today, He is flippantly referred to as the “Man upstairs”, “the Big Guy”, “the Co-pilot”, and a host of other names that place Him in too familiar of a place. Our relationship with Him gives us access to call Him “Abba, Father” and therefore we can be as familiar with Him as we are with a parent. But I am one of those parents who still believe that our daughters are to address us as “mama” and “dad”. It’s called respect!

Beautiful things catch our attention and cause us to stop and admire them. We visited Charleston, South Carolina last summer. While we were there, we spent a great deal of our time walking through the streets to see historic homes in the Old District. Every place we walked was a great place to take a picture because the area is beautiful. At least some part of our day was spent admiring the beauty of the city parks and homes. We didn’t want to leave and we would love to return.

That’s the picture of the beauty of His holiness. We are to stop when His holiness is around and admire the beauty, the preciousness of His holy state. We are to give His Holiness the place of honor worthy of Him. Then that beauty will cause the only response that is appropriate to come forth: worship! We should want to experience His holiness while reluctantly departing from it. But most importantly, we should long for it!

Jehosophat was the king of Judah when the people of Moab, Ammon, and Mount Seir decided to come against them in battle! But Jehosophat prayed to God and God told him to not be afraid for the battle belonged to Him. On the morning of the battle, Jehosophat organized a time of praise:

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 NKJV

Here we see the singers honoring the holiness of our God. As they praised the beauty of the holiness of God, God set up ambushes against the enemy and destroyed them before Jehosophat! I always attributed this victory to praise without recognizing that the praise was to His holiness. Isaiah wrote these words:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”

Isaiah 6:3 NKJV

Our God is a holy God. His holiness is an intricate part of who He is and how He operates. There is beauty in His holiness which says to me, it’s noteworthy and He should be praised for it. As we approach the end of the week and head to another service that hopefully will honor His great name, let’s not forget to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness. Wonderful Jesus!

With a Willing Heart!

1 Chronicles 29:17-I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart, I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy, I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You.

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David wanted to build a house for God. That was the thing about David, God was usually on his mind. Even after sinning with Bathsheba, David’s heart was still towards the Lord. He was so grateful for all that God had done for him that he wanted a permanent place to call to the house of the Lord.

Now it came to pass, when David was dwelling in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under tent curtains.” Then Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.”

1 Chronicles 17: 1-2 NKJV

Nathan, the prophet, thought it to be a good thing that David wanted to build a house for God and told him to go ahead. But God told Nathan to tell David that he couldn’t do it.

But it happened that night that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: “You shall not build Me a house to dwell in.

1 Chronicles 17:3-4 NKJV

Can you imagine David’s initial’s reaction to those words? Did he feel rejection, shock, hurt, or disappointment? Maybe he experienced all of that! We don’t know. At this point in scripture, we are not told why David couldn’t build the Lord’s house, but later David lets us in on God’s reason for telling him no.

Then King David rose to his feet and said, “Hear me, my brethren and my people: I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made preparations to build it. But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.’

1 Chronicles 28:2-3 NKJV

Therefore, David could not build the temple of God. But that did not stop David from getting involved. He couldn’t build the temple, but he could do all in his power to make sure that the house of God was provided for before his departure. And that’s what he did.

Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, my own special treasure of gold and silver…

1 Chronicles 29:3 NKJV

David said that he had set his affections on the house of God; therefore, he gave to the house of God over and above all that he had prepared for the house out of his own treasure. That’s better than a matching IRA. David had already set aside everything that he could think of that would be needed by Solomon to build the house of God. Then, he went into his personal treasure and gave more than he had already set aside for the building of the church.

There are two things that resonated with me in these verses. The first thing was that David had set his affection on the house of God. Most of us have become so conditioned to being able to attend a church that we don’t think much about the privilege that we have in being able to attend. David had never been into a sanctuary that wasn’t mobile. He was so passionate about the concept of having a stationary sanctuary to worship the Lord in that he was willing to make any sacrifice necessary to make it happen.

The second thing that stands out to me is the fact that David wanted to spare no expense on the house of God. Nothing was too good or too much for the house of his God! Nothing! Gold, silver, precious stones, and everything else in his treasury of valuables were things he wanted to see in God’s house! No second hand goods, or bargain basements for the house of God! Only the best! He was so serious about giving to the house of God that he referred to it as a time of consecration before the people:

Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?”

1 Chronicles 29:5 NKJV

David gave his best to the God who had given him everything. Since David viewed his giving as a form of consecration, he challenged others to do the same thing. They responded to the call of dedicating their wealth to the building of God’s house:

Then the leaders of the fathers’ houses, leaders of the tribes of Israel, the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the officers over the king’s work, offered willingly. They gave for the work of the house of God…

1 Chronicles 29:-6-7 NKJV

Now if you read my previous blog, you will remember that I mentioned that we should not be a copycat giver. I still believe that! But here’s where it is different: David never told the people that they should give because he gave. He told them that he had given and asked them if they wanted to participate. How many of you realize that the temple would be built, with no expense spared, if no one else gave but David? But David felt moved to include them in this opportunity to give. When someone stands up and says that the Lord told them that we should all give $1,000 to do something in the church, that’s totally different! At least it is to me!

Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the Lord; and King David also rejoiced greatly.

1 Chronicles 29:9 NKJV

There was no coercion involved in this offering. People gave out of a loyal heart. We don’t know if their hearts were loyalty to David or to God, but they gave out of their heart. They willingly offered to the Lord. It’s all about motive! Motive on the part of the person asking, and motive on the part of the giver.

I was talking with my husband about the blog. He mentioned that he was on a website that had ads and even a way to donate. He asked if I had thought about ads or donations? I told him that I’m not going to ask for people to give to this blog site, so don’t think I’m priming the pump! I’m blogging on giving because it was the way I felt the Spirit of God leading me.

David prayed these words over the people that day:

“O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own. I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You. O Lord God… keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You.

1 Chronicles 29:16-18 NKJV

What a beautiful prayer about giving! David said that he gave out of the righteousness of his heart. That was his motive, and he prayed it would always be the way we give as we fix our hearts toward Him. I believe that is the key to be a willing giver: a heart that is fixed towards the Lord! Wonderful Jesus!

The Attitude of Giving!

2 Corinthians 9:7- So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. NKJV

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

If the truth is told, people are always giving. People give to political campaigns because they believe in the politician or the political party. People give during disasters because that is one time when we all agree it is better to give than it is to receive. People love to give at Christmas, birthdays, or special occasions. Typically, people give to others because something is stirred in their hearts that makes them want to reach out and help or bless someone else. So why do we have to be reminded that we should give cheerfully when it comes to the church?

I was sitting in service many years ago at a conference. It was offering time, and I was digging into my purse to give. I had a little money, but not a lot, and I had purposed to give twenty dollars in offering. As the offering was being taken up, the speaker for the afternoon was at the microphone and commented on how much people spend on movies and entertainment. Then the speaker made a statement about not tipping them because they had something for us greater than entertainment. And I think they referred expressly to the dollar amount I had in my hand.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:7 NKJV

I have endeavored to live my life of giving by this principle. I believe in having a purposeful amount of offering in my heart to give and plan accordingly. Sometimes my husband may pull out his wallet and add to that, or the Spirit will speak to me and tell me to give more. Rarely less. But on that particular day, for the first time ever, I put my money back in my purse. I shocked the person I was with, and I surprised myself. But I knew I heard disdain in that person’s voice and felt that my offering would not be acceptable, so I kept it. In giving that day, I would have broken the other part of this verse:

not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:6 NKJV

As believers, we are to feel a huge responsibility in getting out the kingdom’s message. To carry the gospel to our communities and abroad costs money. Some say it costs a lot of money! I’ve been responsible for events in ministry that cost thousands of dollars, with no wastefulness, and barely meeting the needs. Things are costly in a church, and most merchants don’t give their goods to the church as a donation. So things cost.

Speakers, musicians, decorations, lights, air, and heat come with a price tag. And a warm smile and “Jesus loves you” will not get these things paid for. Yet, some still think it’s a shame to give to the church. As a matter of fact, my example probably encouraged you to be stingy. But that was not my point.

My point is that a negative experience doesn’t change the word of God. Giving financially to the work of the ministry is scriptural, and we should all be willing participants to finance the kingdom.

And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law….

Hebrews 7:5 NKJV

The tithe is the most basic of giving. Every church member should pay the same tithe amount no matter their income. The word tithe means one-tenth. If every person gives one-tenth of their earnings to the work of the Lord, it’s a fair share system. My ten percent may only be 20 dollars, and yours might be 200 dollars, but the point is that it is only ten percent of our income.

I heard people argue that they can’t afford to give the tithe, but I replied that I can’t afford to not give it. I have experienced that the 90 percent is blessed as we honor God with the ten percent. I’m not of the camp that believes if you don’t give God ten percent, you’ll give it to the doctor, the lawyer, or the car mechanic. However, I feel emphatically that I am blessed because I obey Him in this area.

Back to giving. Giving involves everything that you do that is above the tithes. I believe tithing counts toward giving, but everything else is like adding frosting to the cake! So here are some tips to help you to stay cheerful and not grudging in your giving:

  • Be led by the Spirit in your giving! God knows when you need a challenge in your giving!
  • Pray about unexpected offerings! (If you want to!)
  • Give as you have predetermined but be open to God’s voice!
  • Don’t be manipulated by schemes and gimmicks!
  • Don’t allow other people to be God’s voice in your giving! (For example, when someone says God told them to give a certain amount and everybody else should do the same)! Let them obey God, and you do the same!
  • By the same token, don’t be a copycat giver. John gave $5,000, so now you are going to give it! If you can’t afford it, that will kill your joy!
  • Don’t charge your giving. Giving comes from what you have, not from what you borrow. If you borrow thousands of dollars to impress the pastor or the members, you’ll end up in debt with no one to blame but yourself.
  • Don’t sell your belongings to give unless you hear God say it! We jump on the bandwagon of things God didn’t direct us to do. Then we blame Him when things go wrong.
  • When you give sacrificially, and sometimes we are called by God to do that, make sure that you will not wake up regretting it in the morning. True sacrificial giving always brings peace.
  • Lastly, don’t make public testimonies of your giving unless God okays it! If it will bless someone and the person isn’t around or doesn’t mind, okay. If it will embarrass someone who was the recipient and you make them feel humiliated, it was not God! Be careful with that! (See Matthew 6:3).

The best giving isn’t to the church. It’s to the people of God. I tend to avoid people who like to give “testimonies” about not having food or money, but they trust God. That sounds like a manipulative person to me. But when God whispers to my Spirit and tells me to bless someone with a meal, money, or whatever, the joy of giving comes in. Especially when they respond with a comment that it was just what they needed!

I love the church, the physical and the spiritual church. I love giving to the church and being a part of what is happening in the church. When there is a need in our church, we immediately talk about how we want to be a part of what is happening. We’ve made sacrifices, and we’ve made some of the mistakes I mentioned. Especially giving grudgingly because someone put us on the spot. But we have grown through those experiences and still have absolute joy in giving to the church and others. How’s your attitude towards giving? It’s something to think about! Wonderful Jesus!

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

Psalm 56:3-4- Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word),
in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?

Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

Remembering those who have given their all for our freedom! Honoring their lives by not forgetting that freedom may be free for us, but it cost others everything! Thank God for those who have put their lives on the line for our freedom, and for those who still do it every day! You deserve the remembrance and honor! Wonderful Jesus!

Why Miracles Don’t Bring Devotion!

1 Corinthians 10:1,5- Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea…But with most of them, God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

I’ve been a Christian for over a half-century. I know I have some of you wondering how old I really am, but suffice it to say, I’ve been walking in the way for a long time. Even now, after all of these years, I have a difficult time understanding people. As I was meditating on the Lord it got me wondering how we can all live in this world, see the majestic beauty of the earth, and experience the grace of God, and yet some still reject Him!

Paul, in writing to the Church at Corinth, started this particular section of his letter by stating he didn’t want us ignorant concerning what happened when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt. In essence, he was sharing a well-known event with them to make a point that I believe needs to be made today.

Paul said that all of our ancestors (those who were in Egypt) were under the cloud:

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

Exodus 13:21-22 NKJV

The cloud of God’s glory was present for all to see. Throughout the day the cloud led everyone away from Egypt, bondage, and their past. The pillar of cloud led them all to a brighter hope, a better tomorrow. And at night, the pillar of fire was there giving them light and assurance that God was still with them. Paul said that all who left Egypt experienced this miracle.

Then Paul said that all, that means everybody passed through the sea. When the waters parted, none was left behind. They all crossed over.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Exodus 14:21-22 NKJV

Passing through the Red Sea should have been a deal maker between the children of Israel and God. Once they stepped into the river bed that was dry, they should have rushed to the other side to give God their undivided devotion. Yet, their praise, heartfelt and spontaneous, didn’t seal their commitment.

All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.

1 Corinthians 10:3-4 NKJV

Paul is referring to the eating of manna and drinking water from the rock. Both miraculous experiences were powerful examples of God’s might and active engagement in their well-being, but for them, it was still not enough. We know this because Paul said:

But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

1 Corinthians 10:5 NKJV

In other words, God did everything He could to demonstrate His love for them, and it was never enough. They complained, they disobeyed, they made an idol of gold, and they wanted to return back to Egypt. Event after event, miracle after miracle, forgiveness and more forgiveness, and deliverance after deliverance, and they still rejected Him. I simply don’t get it! I sit in the place of looking back over their journey and judge their ease of neglect to the God who was better than good to them, and it puzzles me! And I’m sure it puzzled Paul because his observation was that God wasn’t pleased with most of them and therefore they perished in the wilderness.

I think about this today and realize that we are no different, and in many cases, worst, than the children of Israel. I’ve heard people say that if God is real, where are the miracles? Well, He performed countless miracles for the children of Israel and they were faithless. Then Jesus came and He performed many miracles, and let me remind you of the response of the people:

 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…

Acts 2:22-23 NKJV

These words were spoken by Peter on the day of Pentecost, after all of the miracles Jesus had performed, after His death on the cross, and after He had risen from the dead. Miracles are great, and they are a powerful witness to the presence and power of God. But they don’t cause the masses to believe today, any more than they believed in the past. And to me, that’s astonishing! I don’t get it!

So if miracles don’t draw people to having a committed relationship with God, then what does? And if miracles don’t happen to make people love God and realize how good He is, then are they necessary for today? Well, I’m glad you asked because I have some thoughts on the subject.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-7 NKJV

But God! All of us, who are living for the Lord has a “but God” testimony! Not the Red Sea testimony, but the one that testifies of a loving Father, who in spite of our mess-ups and failures, love us. Or the testimony that bears witness to the fact that in the midst of the busyness of life, when no one was around, and we felt the weight of the world on our shoulders, or the deep-seated weight of loneliness, God stepped in. But God! Or maybe there is the testimony of abandonment, abuse, neglect, or being cast away without a friend or someone who cared, but God showed up. And with God came His great love, the exceeding riches of His grace, His kindness towards us in Jesus. And at that moment, something happened that a miracle could never outlast; acceptance and redemption from Elohim, God of the universe! And in return, our complete devotion and love!

I believe in miracles. I long for the miracle-working power of God to manifest in our midst. I even told God that if miracles were happening, people would rush to Him and serve Him forever, so I thought He should increase His miracles!

Miracles are wonderful! We do need to see them! But I believe that God chooses not to perform miracles on demand because He knows that if we build our faith and trust in Him based on miracles, it would be a shallow relationship. That type of relationship would only prove that we are sticking around for what God can do for us and would not teach us to love Him and to be faithful to Him, no matter what!

However, when our relationship is a love relationship; when we understand that the greatest honor in life is to be loved by God; when we have figured out that no relationship outshines the relationship we have been invited to through the Blood of Jesus; and when we value Him over all others and everything…then we can appreciate the miracle!

Miracles are all about what God can do for us! If we are not careful we will begin to think that if He isn’t doing a miracle for us, He doesn’t love us or He’s not present in our lives. When our devotion is to Him first, we can recognize that the greatest miracle is that He first loved us! Wonderful Jesus!

Be Strong in the Lord!

Ephesians 6:10 – Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. NKJV

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Sometimes I like to stop all of the busyness of life and just spend time with God. Of course, writing a blog keeps me in the word and praying, but it’s just nice sometimes to pull away and enjoy Him. So that’s what I have been doing. It was yesterday when He spoke a word to my heart that I didn’t even know I needed to hear, and it blessed me. So I want to share a little bit from our time.

This is an interesting time in my life. I have moved to a new church. I am trying to get a ministry going. And I’m in school again while working full-time. I’m excited and grateful about these endeavors, but sometimes I start to feel overwhelmed with it all.

So here I was, worshipping and praying with no real agenda and no requests I was willing to bring to Him when He spoke to my spirit about being strong. Of course, the first scripture that comes to mind when I think of being strong is our key verse:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Ephesians 6:10 NKJV

I understand that the only strength that I can lay hold to is the strength that I get from relying on Him. I know that even when I don’t realize I need His strength, it’s because He is so good at supplying it. So I completely relate to His encouragement to me to stay connected to His strength at this time.

There are occasions in the Bible where God encouraged others to be strong. A familiar event was when Joshua had to lead the children of Israel after Moses’ death:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 NKJV

Joshua was hesitant to move out from the place of mourning into the Promised Land. He was hesitant to take Moses’ place. But God spoke to Joshua and told him to be strong and that He would be with him wherever he went.

That’s very encouraging! Especially when you sense in your heart that God is telling you to do a thing or to go to a place that may feel overwhelming to you. Finding a new church, returning to school, preparing for retirement, or getting a new job all comes with uncertainties. They take us out of our comfort zone, the thing that we are used to doing. It’s a great comfort to realize that if He sends us, He’s asking us to trust the plan because He will be with us in the plan. Joshua obeyed God’s voice and found Him to be as faithful as He promised.

Another incident happened to Daniel. He had been fasting and praying when an angel appeared to him:

Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!”

Daniel 10:18 NKJV

Daniel was overwhelmed with the vision that God had shown to him about the children of Israel. What he witnessed caused him to become weak at the knees. But the angel told him to be strong and not to fear. He was strengthened at that moment by the message from God. It’s not always through a transition in your life that you need to be strong. You may need to be strong to be there for others through their difficult moments. Or you may need to be strong as others suffer, knowing that relying on the strength of God is what is needed.

I think of Daniel as I think about the mass shootings that are happening across the country. It’s enough to make you run into the house, lock the doors, and hide. But we have to continue to live and trust God for the strength to not be overcome with grief and fear.

My heart is especially hurting for the school community in Texas. Like the ones in Buffalo, those families are hurting at the senseless violence that has overtaken their lives. These events and others may cause us to become fearful, but in times like these, we must be strong. And we should be praying!

Paul wrote some very encouraging words in 1 Corinthians:

 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NKJV

Stay watchful, and alert! We need not be fearful but must pay attention to our environment when we are out and about. Stand fast in the faith; this is not the time for wavering. God is still good, and He is still on the throne. Where sin abounds, grace abounds the more. Be brave and strong. There is no time for cowering from the enemy; it’s time to pray like never before. And let all that we do be done with love. Don’t give in to hatred and violence. Let love have its perfect work in our hearts! We need His strength today in great measure!

If you are in transition or wondering about how you will make it through a challenging time in your life, you can take heart with these words: Be strong!

Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”

Isaiah 35:4 NKJV

Challenging times are ahead for us all. Transitions will continue to be a part of living. But through it all, God tells us to be strong. I didn’t know I needed those words before I heard them, but I was strengthened when I heard them. Maybe you didn’t realize that you needed to hear them either, but here they are: Be strong! In Him and with Him, we can be strong because His strength is being perfected in us. Wonderful Jesus!