Let Others Help!

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 -I think you ought to know, dear brothers, about the hard time we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed and feared we would never live through it. TLB

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Paul is an interesting person to me. I think of him as the superhero of the gospel. Writing most of the New Testament, establishing churches, traveling continuously to spread the gospel, walking in miracles, and seeming to have an unstoppable attitude, his example is hard to follow. And yet, many Christians struggle in life, thinking that they have to portray a superhero face to onlookers to be the perfect Christian.

In this verse, we see a side of Paul that we don’t see very often. A side that makes it possible to think he was more human than our minds tend to believe. Paul starts this conversation by saying,

I think you ought to know, dear brothers, about the hard time we went through in Asia.

2 Corinthians 2:1 TLB

Some preachers spend too much time dwelling on the challenges of being a Christian. The “woe is me” attitude touches the emotions of far too many believers. However, some preachers believe Christians should never struggle, especially for any length. Can I tell you today that until someone has heard your story, they can’t tell you how you should feel?

Paul told the Corinthians that he felt they should know how hard things were for him and his group as they went through Asia. As a matter of fact, Paul said that things got so bad that they thought they wouldn’t live through them. Let’s read those words again:

We were really crushed and overwhelmed and feared we would never live through it.

2 Corinthians 2:9 TLB

I read these words, and I think that if Paul could feel overwhelmed, if Paul could feel like the situation he was in was so intense that he felt like he wouldn’t make it through it, then certainly we can admit when we have these same feelings of life being too much!

Now grant it, keeping things in perspective, Paul wasn’t feeling overwhelmed because of his bad decisions, but because of the attacks against him for the gospel’s sake. But nevertheless, he felt overwhelmed by his situation.

We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves

2 Corinthians 1:9a TLB

I can’t speak for you, but I know that there are things that happen in life that cause a person to feel under such intense pressure that they feel like they are going to die. Or they feel like the thing they are going through, they are powerless to get themselves out of it or through it. Simply overwhelmed with the pressures of life.

I remember at the height of the pandemic, when people were dying faster than we have ever seen before around the world, how helpless we all felt. We didn’t know what was going on or how to stop it! Powerless! Wondering when it would all end.

I think about the businesses that closed their doors forever and the people who lost their jobs, homes, and sense of security, realizing how overwhelmed they had to have felt.

I think of families with young children at home, trying to navigate jobs, childcare, schooling, and home life, with no end in sight. It can be overwhelming. But we made it through the tough times of the pandemic, mostly intact.

But outside of the pandemic are other issues in life. The families in Uvalde who woke up to a regular school day have it interrupted by a school massacre in their town, their school. Parents, siblings, spouses, friends, and family members are taken off guard by the senseless violence and the unexpected, violent loss of their loved ones.

Just a few days ago, as Americans began celebrating the Fourth of July by attending parades and family gatherings, we were interrupted again by the shocking news of another public shooting. Over and over again, these things keep happening, and there is a sense of feeling overwhelmed by all of it. A sense that it is just too much! But the most challenging part of all of it is we feel powerless to stop it!

Paul didn’t stop there with the difficulties that he was facing. He didn’t leave the Corinthians with a sense of doomsday being on the horizon. He didn’t feel it was time to throw in the towel because the gospel message asked for a price that no one should have to pay. No! Paul had some good news to add to all of the terrible things that had happened:

We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. 

2 Corinthians 9:1 TLB

Paul told the Corinthians that even though they were in a place where they felt they might die and had no solutions to help themselves, they were in a good place!

How could Paul say things were good when they were so bad? There was absolutely no good thing going on in the natural to even remotely find good! But Paul said it was good. Why?

Paul said that it was in this difficult place, where he felt things were so bad that he could die because he was powerless to help himself, that they placed it all in the hands of God! Read it again if you need to:

We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. 

1 Corinthians 1:9 TLB

Paul told the Corinthians that while they were powerless, they turned things over to the God with all power. As a matter of fact, Paul acknowledged that only God could save them and get them out of the situation that they were in. Only God could take this situation that wanted to crush them to death and bring deliverance. Paul also said that God even raised the dead! So he took great comfort in that truth.

And he did help us and saved us from a terrible death; yes, and we expect him to do it again and again. 

1 Corinthians 1:10 TLB

Then Paul lets them know that God did help them. God saved them from a terrible death, and his expectation in God was that He would do it again and again. Paul’s confidence in God is showing! He said that not only did God help them, but he expected God to do it again and again.

Then Paul says something truly remarkable:

But you must help us too by praying for us. For much thanks and praise will go to God from you who see his wonderful answers to your prayers for our safety!

1 Corinthians 1:11 TLB

Paul tells the Corinthians that they can help him and those who were spreading the gospel by their prayers. He said that they would get to rejoice in the miraculous provisions of deliverance that he experienced if they would pray!

This is the whole point of my blog today. We can’t stop everything from happening, but if we pray for others, we can be a part of God’s plan to deliver them. It is important that as we continue to see things happening, we don’t fold our hands over our eyes and say the sky is falling. No! It’s time to pray! Because Paul tells us through the Word of God that our prayers change things!

And for those experiencing such heart-wrenching things in your life today, don’t give up on God and wallow in despair. It’s time to turn things over to God! Then call someone and tell them what is going on so they can pray for you. Let others help you! Because if you do, they will later rejoice with you over God’s great victory in your life! Wonderful Jesus!

God Don’t Never Change!

Malachi 3:6 -“For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. NKJV

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It’s funny, but as soon as I pasted the verse to this blog I heard my mother-in-law’s voice say, “God don’t never change!” And that’s the gospel truth! God don’t never change!

Change is a way of life. Some changes are good, natural changes. We are born babies, then we are children, and before you know it, we are adults. Our bodies are constantly changing. That’s a beautiful thing. Another change we experience in life is going from elementary school, to middle school, to high school, and some of us, to college. All positive changes that we expect and often look forward to.

But there are other changes that are not so wonderful. Change happens throughout life, often catching us off guard, like death in the family, loss of a job, broken relationships, illnesses, or even natural disasters. These types of changes can be devasting and have a lasting effect on our lives, our families, our finances, and even our mental health. But understand, they happen to us all!

Sometimes when things happen, you feel like it is the worst thing that could have happened to you, but if you will not panic and throw in the towel, a blessing may be around the corner.

I think of Joseph. He was the favored son of his father. Life was good for him. He was even having prophetic dreams about his future, and things were looking great. But then a change happens. His brothers want to kill him but decide to sell him into slavery instead. He gets to Egypt, and God’s favor is upon him. As he’s learning to live with his situation as second in command in Potiphar’s house, when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him. When that doesn’t work, she lies and says he tried to seduce her. He’s thrown into prison. Things just keep changing around Joseph and he has no control over them. Not only does he not have control over them, but they also go from bad to worst. Until Pharaoh has a dream and Joseph is the only person who can give the interpretation. After Joseph is taken from prison to see Pharaoh, life changes again and he becomes second only to Pharaoh! One change after another, from good to bad to ugly and then to best! God was with him! Cause God never changes!

I think of David. He was a shepherd boy and was happy with his sheep, praising God. Then his life changed. He was anointed king but sent back to the sheep. Then he was called upon to play music for Saul because of an evil spirit that tormented Saul. When one day, his life changes forever. He fights and kills Goliath. Now he is a warrior and loved by all. Except for Saul! He was living in the palace and eating at the king’s table when the king tried to kill him. His life changes again, and he’s on the run from Saul. But while he’s on the run, he becomes a leader of a group of disgruntled and discouraged men who became mighty warriors. Life changes again when he becomes king of Judah, then later king of Israel. Changes upon changes. None of this probably felt good to him, but through it all, he became a great leader, a man of compassion, and a warrior. God was with him throughout all of those changes, because God promised to never leave him! God don’t never change!

Then there was Saul. He was trained under Gamalio to be a good Jewish man. He knew the law. But then Jews started talking about the Way and a man named Jesus. He couldn’t have it. He wanted nothing to do but to stop this change that was happening amongst his people. So he went on a campaign to arrest those who strayed from the faith of Judaism to embrace the Way. He was so angry with them that he didn’t even care when they were murdered. Then one day he was traveling to Damascus. On the way, he encountered Jesus. His life was changed that day. His entire philosophy and life’s work had been thrown a curve. But he encountered Jesus. And he had to decide if he would flow with change, or stick with the way things were. Well, Saul accepted the change and went on to have great experiences with God. God don’t never change!

Each of the people mentioned experienced changes in their lives. Abraham, Moses, Noah, Jacob, and so many others, if not all of them, experienced changes in their lives. Some of them went through several changes like Moses. While others only seemed to have a few. But they all experienced changes. And so will we! It’s inevitable!

Now here’s the point. God never changes! When Joseph was going through his changes, God was with him. When David was going through his changes, God was with him. When Saul experienced his changes, God was with him, because God doesn’t change.

He promised to never leave us, nor to forsake us. He hasn’t changed. Jesus said it like this:

and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20 NKJV

The writer of Hebrews said this about the Lord:

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5b-6 NKJV

Whether changes come at the hands of men, or just circumstances, God is with us and He never changes! We don’t have to fear changes. Even the difficult ones, because God is with us. And because God is with, what can man do to us! Be encouraged today in this truth, no matter the change that you have to experience today or tomorrow, God will be with you, because He never changes! Wonderful Jesus!

Increasing and Decreasing! Repost

John 3:30 -He must increase, but I must decrease. NKJV

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John the Baptist’s words have become a mantra of humility in the Church. When a soloist gets up to sing, she may say this before singing to give the impression of humility and that she isn’t really singing; it’s God! Or a minister may say it before preaching, so everyone will know that he isn’t preaching; it’s God. Whether they are being truthful or not, with their message of humility, I believe this theology is flawed. Although God is using both individuals, the important truth is that He is using the individual. I want to explain!

First, we need to understand what motivated John the Baptist to say these words. Let’s look at verses 25 and 26 to gain some insight:

“Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified —behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!

John 3:25-26

John the Baptist had been the voice of spiritual renewal in Israel. As he went about with the message of repenting and being baptized, he was actually paving the way for Jesus. This is why he was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The ministry John had been given was given to him from birth, and he was simply to be a forerunner of the Messiah. On this particular day in John’s life, we see his followers upset that people are beginning to flock to Jesus. They see Jesus as the usurper of John’s ministry, not the Messiah.

John explains to his followers what they see happening with Jesus is what is supposed to be happening:

  • A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven (v. 27). John is helping them to see that his followers are flocking to Jesus because it is what God has purposed to happen. Every single follower he had, God gave to him, and every single follower Jesus had was given by God.
  • I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him (v. 28). John reminded his followers that he had already told them he was not the Messiah; he was only sent before the Messiah. His disciples already knew the witness that John had given regarding Jesus. John just reminds them of that truth. He was not the Christ!
  • Lastly, John calls himself the friend of the bridegroom. In Jewish tradition, the friend of the bridegroom, the shoshben, was the individual who was the mediator between the bride’s family and the bridegroom’s family. He negotiated the terms of the marriage and was said to be the one who watched the bridal tent. On the night the bridegroom comes, he recognizes the groom’s voice and opens the bridal tent to him only. Then he goes away, rejoicing that his work is done. John had come to announce the Groom. His work was finished! That was his ministry!

This is the point of John’s words in verse 30, “He must increase, and I must decrease!” John had fulfilled his part of the plan of God for his life. His ministry was complete. It was time for Jesus to take front and center stage so His ministry and His time would be fulfilled.

Was John showing humility in this declaration? Yes, he was! But he was not saying that to mean “none of him and all of God.” It really was his time to get off the scene of spiritual renewal and Jesus’ time to usher in the kingdom. During the time of John’s crying in the wilderness, he cried aloud and spared not. He didn’t ask God to let him decrease at that time. No! He was the chosen vessel at that time to be used by God to get a specific task completed. It was his assignment, and God had chosen to use him.

John saw his assignment for the honor that it was. His birth was miraculous, and his mission was sure. He fulfilled that assignment with everything in him, in the way God led him, but it was John that God was using.

Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Matthew 3:4

John was a simple man. Matthew described his clothes as made with camel’s hair, and his diet was locusts and wild honey to help us see that John was different from other Jewish men. He was God’s prophet! God used John to fulfill an important assignment, to set the stage for His son. It was an assignment that John was handpicked for, and he did well!

I thought of this when I was having a conversation with my niece. She preached her first sermon and her heart was that we would see “none of her and all of Jesus!” Great sentiment, but is it scriptural?

Let’s be honest for a moment. I have heard a lot of people preach over the years, and you have, also. When I listen to Joel Osteen preach, I am challenged by the word of God. But I know it’s him. His demeanor is that of a quiet individual who remains in control of his mannerisms. His voice level fluctuates to make a point, but he doesn’t preach until he sweats and his voice trembles. That is not his way!

But when I hear my pastor preach, Pastor Charlie Dates, he’s a fireball from start to finish. He always starts his message with a story that is relevant to his point. As he gets into the message he might raise his voice, clap his hands, or sing a song, because something has blessed him or he wants to make a point. It’s his personality that is filled with a passion that seeps through his preaching of the gospel. It’s just his way. And I hear God through him.

The same is true for all ministers. We can listen to them and note different things about them that are very much a part of who they are. I like to pace when I preach or teach; it keeps my thoughts flowing. And I might even get a little loud. But another woman may not! Those little things about me, you, or another person make us uniquely who we are. When God calls us to service, it is us He is calling.

Some people are really charismatic, and they make great evangelists. Some people are genuinely calm, and they make great ushers. He calls us and assigns with us in mind! Now! Should we be humble as we minister? Absolutely! Should we direct all the glory to Him? Without a doubt? But we should also realize that we are the people God wants to use. He didn’t make us cookie-cutter pastors, preachers, singers, or teachers. Yet, we can all be used by Him, and people can still see Him through us. It’s just a thought!

So next time you are called upon by God to serve Him in any capacity, remember that He wants to use you! Your voice, your hands, your personality, and your mannerisms. You! And when you are careful to do it as unto the Lord, giving Him the glory, He will be seen in you! Wonderful Jesus!

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!