30 Days of Gratitude – Day 24 Legalism & Grace

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Today I’m grateful for the grace that God shows me when it comes to my legalism.  This is something that God has been working on for many decades and I’m pleased to say that I’ve come quite a way, I’m also sad to say that I have a long way to go.

It saddens me when I read things like Galatians 5:2-4:

Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.  3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.  4You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Bare with me here, I see my legalism as a form of circumcision because it obligates me to the law and negates the grace of Christ and stand in the way of my relationship with Him.  For those reasons I take firm warning from Galatians 5:2-4.

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As much as I struggle with legalism it breaks my heart that I’ve allowed it to come between me and my Lord Jesus Christ.  I long for a relationship with Him and the last thing that I want to do is fall away from grace.  I want what Galatians 5:1 states:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.

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I want the freedom that Christ offers and I don’t want to allow myself to be burdened again by the yoke of slavery, mainly my legalism.  So I ask God to continue working with me in this area of bondage.  That He make me keenly aware of when I’m struggling with it.  So that I might ask forgiveness and wisdom in how to get out of it.

I’m grateful that God is gracious with me in this area of sin.  I know He wants to see progress in this as much or more than I do.  He is so loving and patient with me when I come to a verse that seems one I can perch my legalistic hat on.  These days knowing His grace those verses cause me confusion, with questions like, “How can that be when God says?” or  “I don’t understand wouldn’t that mean?”  When I hear those questions I can usually assume I’m struggling with that ugly old friend legalism.  Being that I want to rid myself of that friend and things still get caught in my head, I seek wise counsel and that helps to quench the old demon.

When I’m in the midst of legalism my relationship with Christ suffers but if I ask the Holy Spirit to help me find the truth to find grace my relationship with Christ is restored.

God is gracious with us as long as we are earnestly seeking His will.  He is patient and long suffering for our sake.  What an awesome God we serve.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 19

Today I’m grateful that the enemy is defeated.  The Serpents head has been crushed.  Christ is the victor and we can live victoriously as long as we rely on God and remember that the battle has already been won.  Something Satan would like us to forget.

I love this quote from, January 14th of “Joy of My Heart: Meditating Daily on God’s Word” by Anne Graham Lotz, it so fittingly portrays what is going on spiritually in our lives.

Although I can remember killing only one snake myself, I was present several times when snakes were killed by others.  Each time I observed a fascinating phenomenon.  After the snake was killed, its body invariably continued to twitch until sundown.  Even though the head was crushed, rendering it powerless, the dead snake’s writhing body was enough to keep me at a distance.

We need to remember that ever since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Satan has been a defeated foe.  His head has been crushed.  As we seek to climb higher in our faith, what we are confronted with is merely the twitching of our defeated foe.  But sundown is coming!  One day even the twitching body of that old Serpent, the devil, will be destroyed.

Now if that isn’t something to be grateful for, I don’t know what is.

Lord help me to always remember that when the enemy attacks he is merely a defeated foe and all I need to do is turn to you.  Don’t let me be fooled by the twitching body of a dead Snake.  Amen.

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 11

Today I’m grateful for what my Savior did for me.  He made it possible for me to accept Him as my Savior.  He paid the price that was needed for all of my sins and all the sins ever committed when He was stripped whipped and beaten and put on the cross for the transgressions of all time.

What a precious gift He gave the world and at what a horrible price.  But after He died on the cross He raised from the dead on the third day.  Breaking death’s victory and making possible for anyone who believes by faith in Jesus Christ what He did for them and repents of their sin and asks Christ into their lives can become a child of God.  Now it is possible to be heirs of the King of Kings through faith in Jesus Christ.

God is good to us in that respect.  Even though man has turned his back on God time and time again.  Yet God seeks out man even to the point of sending His only Son to earth to pay the penalty that we owe.

Which makes Him a just judge because the penalty for sin must be paid but although we are guilty and deserve the penalty of death Jesus Christ came and paid that penalty for each of those willing to accept the gift He did.

I started this 30 days of Gratitude without thinking that I would be facing surgery during this month.  My right elbow is having surgery do to nerve damage.  I’m going to be recuperating for two weeks so I don’t know how or if I’ll be able to continue this series after Thursday.  It is my intention to restart where I’m stopped at when I’ve healed.  Your prayers for my healing is greatly appreciated.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 5

Today I’m grateful for my old pastor Pastor Gary Richmond.  He came back to speak to us last night at evening chapel and as always it was wonderful!

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  –  Romans 1:20

He showed how throughout nature and God’s creation all sorts of different animals and insects, birds and fish, that there is not really a difference in us emotionally, socially, governing, & intellectually it is only in a matter of degrees between us and them.

Two bobcats showing love.

The mothering instinct.

I learned that as for mazes the dolphin does far better than us.

As the scripture says, all of creation show God’s divine power and nature.  All we have to do is be observant.  What a blessing from God to open up all this to us.

He made the point that the arabian horse must be one of God’s favorites because in Revelation it talks about Christ’s return on a white horse and he figures that could very well mean a white arabian has the honor.

“I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.”  – Revelation 6:2

“11I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.  With justice he judges and makes war.  12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns.  He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.  14The armies of heaven were following him, on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.  ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’  He treads the winepress of the fury o the wrath of  God Almighty.  16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS”

–  Revelation 19:11-16

Whatever horse gets the honor of charging our Lord in the second coming that too is something to look forward to with gratitude.

I love when God peaks through to show His power in the storm and darkness.  All through nature there are so many lessons to be learned.  Thank You Lord.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Who Is Your Identity?

Who are you?  Are you identifying yourself by your profession?  Perhaps you are identifying yourself as a husband or wife and putting everything you have into that relationship.  Perhaps your a mom and you are identifying yourself as a mom or in how your children behave or have matured and grown up?  Are you a student and identify yourself as such? Do you allow your grades to speak for who you are?  If you are identifying yourself in any of these ways or any other way other than in respect to Christ that is not your true identity.

I have mistakenly looked for my identity in nearly all of these except for mom, since God never blessed me with children.  When I was put on disability and lost my identity of a professional and it was very difficult when asked what I do to answer the question.  You see here I was (if I remember correctly) in my early 30’s and out of the workforce.  What was to be my identity?

I have had and continue to have the identity of daughter and sister but that never seemed enough.

When I went into early retirement as was suggested to call it by some, I became a student and although I love learning and am fairly good at it.  This too was not enough.

Actually being put on disability was a blessing because I had been so busy with work that I hadn’t realized how empty I was.  It was sometime after that and not without heartache and dealing with my pride that I came to realize that my identity comes from Christ and being in Christ.

Galatians 3:26-29 says this about our identity;

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior your identity belongs to Christ.  As you can see in Galatians 3:26-29 we who have been baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with Christ.  It is Christ in us that the world must see and who we must identify ourselves with.

As the scripture says there is no distinguishing among us. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.”  In today’s terms: Their is neither Baptist nor Methodist nor Lutheran nor Evangelical nor Charismatic nor Catholic, poor nor rich, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  There also isn’t doctor nor plumber, teacher nor homemaker, wife nor aunt, student nor retired.  There are followers of Christ which have clothed themselves in Christ Jesus.

The above list of denominations and non-denominational churches is incomplete I just listed what came to mind and am sure given time I could think of a number of other to add to this list.  Most importantly, instead of the different denominations and non-demominationals waring of non-fundamentals of the faith, let us do as the Bible teaches us and find our common ground and be united in that.  We are letting these insignificant things (in comparison to the fundamentals of our faith) to be used by the enemy to pull the Church (followers of Jesus) apart rather than being unified.  This is exactly what he wants because it destroys our witness to the world.  Church wake up!  It is time we take back what the enemy has cunningly got us to let go of.  There should be unity in love of the Church this is what will attract unbelievers to us.

When you find your true identity – either a follower of Christ or not.  One of three things will happen.

  1. Knowing your identity in Christ as a believer and follower that place in your heart that you were trying to fill with other identities will find peace and wholeness.
  2. If you are not a believer or follower of Christ but you heed the tugging in your heart that this could be the answer to that whole you feel – pray this simple prayer: Lord I see myself as the sinner I am and ask You to forgive me of all my sins.  I accept what Jesus did on the cross as a sacrifice for me so that I might have forgiveness of my sins and fellowship with you.  Lord help me to live the new life that I’ve just begun and bring believers around me to help me grow in You. Amen!
  3. If you are not a believer nor follower of Christ and you choose not to say the above pray and let Christ into your life, you can look through every profession, toy, relationship, or book other than the Bible and you will never fill that God shaped whole you feel.  You know the emptiness that nothing seems to fill.  It’s there for a reason.  God put it there so you would choose Him.  He also gave you free choice so you can run from Him all you want, He’s a gentleman He won’t force Himself on you.  But let me worn you the longer you run the harder your heart becomes.  The harder your heart becomes the less likely you are to turn to Him.  The reason I mention this is that hell is a very real place and if you don’t like things here on earth you have no idea what awaits you separated eternally from a loving and holy God.  It scares me to think that anyone I know would be sent to such a horrible place.  So please reconsider God’s gracious gift of forgiveness.  We’ve all sinned and fallen short of what God in His righteousness requires which is perfection.  Only one man ever walked the earth and did not sin, and that man is our Lord and Savior  Jesus Christ.

So let’s stop looking in all the wrong places and seek out Christ in the Bible and learn about Him so that we have a better understanding of our true identity.

Joy – A Fellow  Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Little Clay Pots

This is reposted from the writer Anne Graham Lotz from her devotional: “The Joy of My Heart: Meditating Daily on God’s Word”

“You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and we are the work of Your hand.”   –     Isaiah 64:8  NKJV

The principle that suffering leads to glory is illustrated in Scripture by a vivid description of clay on the Potter’s wheel – clay that was once cracked, shattered, and broken, clay that was totally useless and ugly.  The Potter took the clay and broke it down even further, grinding it into dust then moistening it with water before He put it on His wheel and began to remake it into a vessel pleasing to Himself.  The cracks and chips became soft and pliable to the Potter’s touch.  But the clay was still soft and weak, the color dull and drab.  So the Potter placed the vessel into the fiery kiln, carefully keeping His eye on it as He submitted it to the raging heat.  At a timer He alone determined was sufficient, the Potter withdrew the pot from the furnace.  The blazing heat had radically transformed into a vessel of strength and glorious, multicolored beauty.

You and I are just little clay pots destined for glory!

Let’s let God do the work that He wants to do in our life.  Let’s become the clay pots that He has in mind for us.  It is not just a matter of obedience but of faith and trust and living a life that is fulfilling that brings glory to God.  I can’t think of a better way to live.  Can you?

Joy – A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Are We Living As Christ Would Have Us?

There have been a lot of things that have been done in the name of Christ, some good and some not so good.  There have been majestic Cathedrals built by artisans over ages to honor Him.  There have been celebrities giving all the glory to Jesus Christ for their success.  Yet there have also been horrific things done in His name as well.  The crusades is one of the darkest time in the history of Christendom.  War was waged all because those calling themselves Christians thought that those who were not Christians should die.  This is not what the love of Christ is all about.

I know that the crusades may seem like a rather harsh example of not doing or rather walking the walk that God would have us walk, but in God’s eyes sin is sin.  Whether we are killing people in Christ’s name or killing His image in their sight, it is all the same to God.

Let me explain what I mean by killing His image.  Every time we do something that is contrary to following Christ those watching us we are actually destroying His image, because we are representatives of Him.

I know that for me there have been times when I have not been a good representative of Christ.  Much to my dismay I have given cause for others not to have a desire to come to Christ, which is our commission.

I have learned to be more responsible about how I act and what I say and how I say it.  Sometimes silence is the best and just allow the world to see your walk.

Most importantly we need to love people.  These are not only the people in the church (because unity is important) but the people outside of the church.  Those who don’t know Christ as their Savior need to see His love and the only way they can do that is for them to see that through you and me.

This is how Christ wants us to live, loving Him with all our heart and soul and mind and then to others as you love yourself.  It seems simply enough but to put it into action on a daily basis is impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Joy – A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

God’s Boundless Love

No matter what the enemy might try and tell me God reminds me that I am worthy of His love.  As an infant is worthy of their mother or father’s love, so am I.  Neither of us have done anything to deserve it nor are either of us capable of doing anything to deserve it.  It is simply because we are and that our parents or Parent’s love is overflowing with love at the sight of us.

It is nothing that I can explain or comprehend it is a gift that I must trust and accept and have faith in.

Sometimes I feel so unworthy I have problems understanding God’s Boundless Love for me.  Then I read His Word and I put my trust in Him and I realize I am worthy because Christ’s blood makes me worthy.

Yet as I read His Word I find jewels that show me that He loved me even before I came to Him.  How boundless is that?

How priceless is your unfailing love!  Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.  – Psalm 36:7

This verse in Psalm was written long before God came down as man.  And look there is no partiality in it.  Both high and low among men find refuge.  He is so loving that He takes all types.  No one is too good or too bad for Him.  He loves all equally.  Now that’s boundless love.

He said: “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth – you who keep you covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. ”  – 2 Chronicles 6:14

and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or earth below–you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.”  – 1 Kings 8:23

Both of these counts are part of Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple.  These verses reveal again God’s faithfulness in His love towards Israel but they also add our part,  “continue wholeheartedly in your way.”  Does that mean that God does not love sinners?  Heavens no!  We are all sinners.  What it does mean is that He expects us to do our best not to sin and when we do by serving Him wholeheartedly, we come to Him when we sin and ask forgiveness. Back then it meant a guilt offering, now it means repentance and change and the blood that was shed by animals is the blood that was shed by Christ.  He is now our guilt offering.

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”  – Deuteronomy 9:12-13

Here we see the Lord asking His people to love Him and serve Him with all their heart and all their soul.  God is into relationships.  He is offering all of Himself to us no barriers. All we need do is ask.  Ask Him for wisdom and it is ours.  He wants to give it to us.  For knowledge, He says yes. He even tells us in His Word to ask for such things.

Yet, out of love like any parent He may not tell us everything.  He may be silent when you want to hear from Him.  It’s not that He doesn’t care.  It’s that He does care.  To love someone enough to be quiet when silence is needed is love in deed.

I wonder if it is as difficult for Him as it is for earthly parents to give that tough love?  The love that we all need from time to time, but hate getting.  I wonder if it breaks His heart too?

The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.  It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere.  Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.  – Deuteronomy 13:3b-4

These verses in Deuteronomy show another side of God’s love.  He tests us to see if we will serve Him and Him only.  This may sound strange to you to call this a side of God’s love, but it is only one who cares for you that would care if you are following what he says and commands.

The absentee parent won’t check up on you or anything and won’t give you any guidelines.  The loving parent will give you guidelines for your best interest and will watch you to make sure that you are following those guidelines.  That is a parent who truly loves you.

I had a friend who had parents that didn’t pay attention to her or give her the love that she desired.  She started starting fires in dumpsters and calling the fire department so they would put them out.  It wasn’t until a loving pastor took her under his wing and started giving her very severe guidelines that she felt loved and accepted and stopped her very unsafe behavior.

God wants to spare us of unsafe behavior so He has given us commands to follow for our benefit.  Like any child we will most likely test those boundaries but hopefully after testing come back to God in a humble spirit and ask forgiveness for not obeying Him.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the God of heaven.  His love endures forever.  – Psalm 136:1, 26

Each verse in Psalm 136 states a different quality about God to give thanks for and at the end of each one it says, “His love endures forever.”  How comforting that is.  Not just for a lifetime or 100 years or even 1000 years but forever.  That’s infinity past, the present and infinity future.  I don’t know about you but that gives me a sense of security.

Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.  You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.  – Luke 11:42

Here Jesus is letting the Pharisees and all within hearing distance know that their works weren’t enough.  They had neglected justice and the love of God.  He made it clear that although they had tithed this in itself was not enough.  They lacked justice and love of God.  Without these two things how could they say they were truly following God.  Love if anything is just.  They were supposed to be leading the people to God yet they were not following God themselves, this is what made Jesus so mad.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  – Romans 8:28

Here Paul writes to the Romans that God works all things for the good of those who love Him.  Now this again shows that we have a part in this love relationship.  He has amazing and boundless love for us and is looking for us to love Him back.  When we do love Him then God works all things for our good.

We may not see or understand the good at the time that it is happening, but good doesn’t mean joyful or happy.  What God is talking about here is, He will work all things out to our benefit.  Even if we may never in this life understand what the benefit is.  He loves us enough to make the tough decisions.  And like some parents have to make tough decisions for the benefit of their children so does God.

The main benefit is that we become more like Christ.  That is God’s goal. He loves us enough not to let us stay the same or stagnate.  He wants to see His children grow.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  – Romans 8:38-39

Now this is the most comforting of all the verses.  There is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Now if that isn’t boundless love I don’t know what is?   Death can’t.  Life and all it’s trials can’t.  Demons can’t, sorry Satan try as you may you can’t.  Angels can’t.  The past and all those old tapes running through your head, they can’t separate you from the love of God.  The present and all it’s worries or concerns – it can’t.  The future and all of the unknown, it can’t.  No matter how high or low it can’t.  Nothing else in all creation, nothing you can imagine or dream of, can separate you from the love of God.  Now if that doesn’t give you a sense of security in Christ Jesus our Lord, nothing will.

God loves you and me more than anything else that He has ever created.  Why else would He send His One and Only Son to come down to earth, to die on the cross for our sins?  To be raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father so He could make petition for us.  Telling the Father, “Dad that one’s mine I died for him/her.”  And the Father saying, “Welcome my child into my house of rest.”

We needed reconciliation and God loved us enough to provide that for us in the guilt offering of His own Son.  Who is now our High Priest.  That is boundless love.  He didn’t abandon us because of sin.  He provided us a way back to Him.  That is what God’s love is unconditional, forgiving, boundless love.  Thank You God!

A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Struggle with Self-esteem?

I don’t know how many of you struggle with not feeling good enough, but it has been a thorn in my side for my entire life.  It was almost a stumbling block between me and salvation.  I didn’t think that there was anyway that God could possibly forgive me!  My poor self image and my awareness of my sinful nature was so before me that for some reason I thought that God would accept Hitler before me.

Now no at the age of 13 I had not caused the death of anyone or tried to take over the world, but all the same I felt so unworthy that I was certain that no one even God could possibly forgive me for my sin.  It took a long time to realize that it wasn’t a matter of worth that got me into the kingdom of heaven, but a matter of grace.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.   –  Titus 2:11

The passage that really settled it for me and gave me assurance of not only my salvation but my position in Christ is Ephesians 2:1-10

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work is those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature an following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God – 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

What comforted me about this passage is many things and I’d like to break it down for you.  First of all, as I’ve already mentioned I was keenly aware of my sinfulness, which made me feel totally unworthy of anything God could have for me.  In Ephesians 2:1-3 it talks about our sins and how we were dead in our transgressions and how all of us lived this way as by nature objects of wrath.  When I read that I thought this Book gets me.  This is exactly how I feel.

Then came verses 4 & 5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”  I could hardly believe my eyes, God loved me and not only that he had rich mercy on me.  Though I was dead in my transgressions God chose to make me alive in Christ.  By grace I was saved.  What a generous God.  It was almost more than my eyes could take in.  My heart was pounding with joy as it is now reliving it.

As if He knew that I needed the added message of what my position  was to help me with my self worth, He goes on to tell me that He/God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, amazing.

So that we don’t get it wrong we are reminded that it is by grace we are saved, through faith, and this not from ourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  This keeps me in the right frame of mind humble because I know that I need God for everything.

Then the writer does us the wonderful blessing of letting us know what God’s purpose for us is. Verse 10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Isn’t it wonderful we know what we are here for to do good works that God has already prepared for us.  That means we need to keep in communication with Him so that we don’t miss out on our purpose.  Since He has planned them out in advance it would be foolish to just go around and do any good work that might not be the one He is wanting you or I to do.  Open communication is crucial for us to know what it is that we are to be doing to stay in God’s will.  Anything else is pride.

Lord thank You for Your Word and for Your will and plans.  Forgive me for my times of pride when I’ve charged off and done things on my own will whether I thought they were for You or not, I was sinful not to come toYou first.  I ask you to forgive me of the sin of my pride and help me to turn to You first.  In the sweet name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 4

“One day I questioned my friend Mary as to where all these bizarre qualities were coming from. She responded, “Do you listen to the pastor speak before the meals at the shelter?” I admitted that I had zoned out during such times. She then invited me to a meeting that night, which would serve my purpose of getting out of the cold and her purpose of introducing me to her Best Friend. So I went not expecting much but my friends must have been praying for me because for the first time I heard about the love of Jesus Christ. About all the suffering He had done for me, even when I still hated Him. This was a man well acquainted with suffering yet He gladly bore it so that I might be saved. I listened to all the preacher had to say and when the alter call was given I went down. I was ready to accept this free gift of eternal life. You see that is what you see in my eyes it is what Christ has done for me. That is the song I sing of joy and thanksgiving. That He has saved me. As the Apostle Paul said, ‘I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’ That is Philippians 4:12b-13. I have not have the privilege with this new life of learning to be content in living in plenty, as I once lived. But I would not go back to that old empty life for anything. I would only go back to wealth if I could take Jesus with me. I imagine you are having a hard time with all of this Jack, aren’t you?” Jack nodded thoughtfully. “I understand that,” continued Esther, “it was not easy for me to put my head and especially my heart around it when I first heard it. I’ve kept you a long time should you like to talk to me again we can meet here any day at the same time.” Jack agreed that he had a lot to think about and told Esther he would like to meet with her again. With that he and Gab left while Jack’s head was spinning with thoughts.

It was definitely too late for visiting hours at the hospital, but for some reason that was the only place Jack wanted to be with his thoughts. He bid Gab goodbye and walked on to the hospital deep in thought. Could this Christ that Esther spoke so lovingly about do the same for him as He had done for her? He wasn’t so sure; he thought that truly he was different than other people even if Esther and he had come from such similar back grounds. As he entered the hospital he noticed that it was dark, he reasoned that it must be to help the patients sleep. It then occurred to him that in all the time his family had been here the few times that he had visited, he never came other than visiting hours. For some reason he realized he suddenly felt a pang of guilt. He realized that he had been absent when his wife and daughter needed him most. His heart started changing. He no longer felt as concerned with their appearance as he was with their need for him. The thought entered his mind, “How could I have been so uncaring, so shallow.” Then almost immediately came the thought, “Because that is what has always been my way – Oh, what a wretched man am I that I have cared more about appearances than, than, than loving – that’s what has been missing in my life.” Suddenly he felt utterly worthless. How could he be so vile of a man? He had always thought of himself as a good man or at the very least a decent man, but now he was beginning to see himself for who he truly was and it was breaking his heart. What had been so hard was crumbling within him. As he reached his wife’s room he wanted so much to talk to her and at the same time felt so unworthy of her. His beautiful Janet who had been so gracious about his egotism and callousness, how could he disrupt her sleep, with thoughts of his own need to talk to her about all that he had heard and been pondering? He slipped into her room as quietly as possible and yet she stirred and murmured, “Nurse?” “No, it’s me Jack. Do you need me to get you a nurse?” He asked. “No,” she responded, “I just didn’t think it was anyone but a nurse.” “I didn’t mean to wake you. You go back to sleep. I just wanted to be near you.” Said Jack. “Is Julie okay?” “Yes she is fine. I have heard nothing from the doctors to think otherwise.” At this Janet responded, “What has happened to you Jack? You’re not acting like yourself.” “I don’t quite know where to start. So much has happened. I haven’t shared with you anything that has happened since the fire.” “It has been your way not to share anything with me a lot longer than that, Jack. I’m stronger than you know and I care more than I think you trust, won’t you please share your heart with me. This is something I’ve been praying for, for a long time.” “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather rest and sleep?” “Please, Jack, there is a reason you are here and I’ve rested all day and am quite awake. I promise if I need to rest I’ll let you know. Now do we have a deal?” “Yes, we have a deal, but this may take quite a bit of time.” Janet’s eyes twinkled as she  responded, “You have my undivided attention.”