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THE SWORD

cross
This morning one scripture commanded my thoughts as my spirit engaged in quiet time with God.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow, as it judges the thoughts and purposes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12 NIV

I had memorized and recited this verse since childhood but it wasn’t until today that it stirred me with divine enlightenment. As a Christian, I am aware that the power of God’s written Word imparts change. My daddy was a pastor and in difficult times I would turn to him for guidance. No matter the situation I faced, his counsel was always the same– Get into the Living Word.

What the heck does that mean?

I am nearing 60-years of age and though the daughter of a minister, it wasn’t until today, I understood with divine clarity that I am empowered to become more like Jesus when I hide God’s Word in my heart. Old habits and lifestyles are replaced with new ones that please God and lead to peace and joy.

It is the double-edged sword of God’s Word that pierces through all the refuse we hide in our heart. The sword reveals who we are spiritually and when we get into the Living Word (read, study, and meditate) something supernatural happens. Our carnal passions and appetites are no longer concealed and become subject to judgment.

There is life in God’s Word.

Because it is living, it produces effects. It isn’t compared to just any sword, but to a (sharper than any) double-edged sword that is able to cut through the thick joint of a bone to the inner, soft, living part of the bone (the marrow).

God’s Word reveals the invisible dimension of our life; the natural man (soul) and the spiritual man. Are the “thoughts and intentions of our heart” spiritual thoughts and intentions or only natural thoughts and intentions.

Allow God’s Word to pierce you.

When we get into the Living Word and allow it to pierce our soul, we become acutely aware of our spiritual condition. Will there be marrow and life in our bone, or only a spiritless soul?

Today’s prayer:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
Psalms 19:14

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WHY TODAY?

Why Today?The recent killing of four marines in Chattanooga raises the question, at least for me, of why today? It’s a question I ponder about death. In the case of my dad, it was death by cancer. He clung to life until the appointed day of his death.

As the marines drove to work that day, they had no foreknowledge of the fate that awaited them. That day they were in the right place at the wrong time.

I understand God has given mankind freewill and the choices we make will impact our life as well as the life of others. The gunman of the marines choose the day he would purposely fire an AK-47 rifle at innocent people. In the process, he was empowered to determine the day he and four others would die.

Certainly the families of the slain, like me, have asked why today. As I try to wrap my thoughts around death, I am reminded that scriptures only provide a glimpse into the mystery of death.

“It is in the plan that all men die once. After that, they will stand before God and be judged.” Hebrews 9:27 NLV “Man’s days are determined; you (God) have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Job 14:5

In this age of electronic devices death is broadcasted in real-time and reminds us that life is but a breath; it can end with little or no warning. Even as I write this piece another senseless massacre has taken place in a Louisiana movie theater; three people are dead and others seriously injured.

What I do know about death is we will all die. Some will experience a prolonged death; others may die instantaneously, accidentally or by choice. The knowledge that death is inevitable poses a greater question. Are we prepared to meet our maker when that why today moment happens?

The Psalmist said, “My whole life is in your hands.” Psalm 31:15 NIRV

When we trust that God is sovereign and in control of all things, the victory of the cross overcomes the fear of death. When our life is in God’s hands the why today question is answered with why not today.

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FINDING TIME FOR GOD

Finding Time for GodMy mornings begin at 6:30 pm, sometimes earlier. I pour myself a half cup of coffee and head to my office where the computer is always on because I work from home. The day starts with a check of social media, emails and finally sifting through the endless stack of papers that clutter my desk.

If time permits, I work on a devotional or scout out a hands-on project to do with the grandkids. By late morning my home is filled with workers and my focus turns to business matters until their 6 pm departure. I scramble to pick up the house, do a load of laundry and prepare dinner before my husband walks through the door at 6:30. And then- I crash on the sofa.

It’s not a glamorous life by any stretch of the imagination. There are many days I don’t shower until late evening. By mid-summer every potted plant on my deck has died from thirst and there are least a half dozen items in my fridge that should have been pitched months ago. Thankfully, I have a bi-weekly cleaning service to keep the dust and dirty floors in check.

The demands of daily life can be overwhelming. We tend to make time for the things we really “love and want to do” but try to find time for things we “have to do”.

So where does God fit into our day?

I believe when we find it difficult to fit God into our day, it’s a love problem. When God time is squeeze out by our preoccupation with social media, emails, texting and over commitments, we suffer spiritually.

It is only when we give God His rightful place in our daily life that we experience the joy of the Lord is our strength and become more productive; we accomplish more in less time with less stress. When we make God first, we experience peace and joy even when our daily schedule seems daunting.

Our present joy and eternal destiny depends upon making time for God. Our Creator wants to intimately connect with us. It takes effort to find the time and energy to connect with God on a regular basis – just as it does with any relationship that matters.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

When we get quiet with God and shut out the daily noise that surrounds us, God will surprise us with insight; He re-calibrates our soul. It’s an invitation for Him to do new things in our life.

It is difficult to build upon what is right until we make time for God. In doing so, we realize our emptiness and God is able to intimately connect with us. Let us be reminded that a love relationship with God starts with an understanding of what He has done for us.

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” John 3:16 AMP

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JUST PASSING THROUGH

100917080512+copyI slid my passport under the glass panel to the agent tending the a line at the customs checkpoint.

“What is your citizenship?” he questioned.
“United States,” I replied.
“What is the purpose of your travels?
“I’m here for vacation.”

The gentleman carefully surveyed my picture I.D before motioning me through the international gate. I breathed a sigh of relief as I tucked my passport back into my travel pouch.

The armed soldiers who walked the corridors of the Paris airport made me uneasy. My steps quicken as I firmly clutched my carry-on bag and headed to the baggage claim area.

Paris was my first overseas trip with my husband. He was a seasoned traveler and undaunted by the military personnel that circulated the airport with loaded weapons. This wasn’t a typical scenario at my local Michigan airport; otherwise, I would have never left the comfort-zone of my home to board a plane to the other side of the world.

I wasn’t prepared for the great number of Muslims that populated Paris. Subways and sidewalks were filled with chants, music and attire foreign to me. At one point, a Muslin woman cranked up a DVD player on the subway to broadcast her religious antics. Commuters appeared apathetic to their surroundings. But for me, a cloud of opposition and unrest seemed to hang over the city of Paris.

My feelings would prove true. On the morning of our departure, a group of Muslims protested in front of the US Embassy over a film produced in the U.S. denigrating the Prophet Muhammad.

I was overcome with relief when our plane safely landed on US soil.

It was a false sense of security. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staffers had been killed in an attack on the American consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi earlier that day. Most disturbing was information that US government officials may have had foreknowledge of the attack and engaged in a cover-up.

Since my September 2012 to Paris the world has witnessed an onslaught of hideous massacres, attacks and devastation against humanity. Christians have become the primary target of Muslin extremists at home and abroad.

We’ve grown accustomed to the term ‘weapons of mass destruction’; it no longer has an impact on us. But that is about to change. God’s prophetic scripture is unfolding before our eyes and the world is rapidly approaching a time of reckoning for our immorality and blasphemous rants against the sovereignty of our Creator.

My faith remains unshaken in the belief God is firmly in control over all events and people of the world. I rest in the assurance that Jehovah-Shammah will bring a perfect end to everything He has started.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Continue to trust the heart of God and His plan for the future.
We can’t control the future events of our life, but God can. Jehovah-Shammah walks with us into whatever tomorrow holds because of His great love. GOD IS THERE in your tomorrow and in my tomorrow.

Though the world is in crisis and turmoil among nations is epidemic, do not fear. Our citizenship is in Heaven and our spiritual passport is stamped with the blood of Christ. It confirms this world is not home; we’re just passing through.

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. “
Luke 21: 20-22
“When these things begin to happen, stand up tall and don’t be afraid. Know that it is almost time for God to free you!” Luke 21:28

Postscript:
When writing, I keep track of my word count as publications have limitations on the number of words that can be submitted for a given article/story. I was taken aback when I noted that the word count for the above article was 666. Hmmm….????

WordCount_666

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CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF HOPE

9625878147_837aba6b41_zI surveyed the sporadic patches of dense clouds from my window seat as the jet engines hummed in the background. The captain announced the plane had reached an altitude of 30,000 feet and it was now safe to move about the cabin. My gaze remained fixated on the endless billow of clouds that obstructed my view. Life’s journey guides us in many different directions and sometimes to locations where clouds obscure our extended vision. According to a NASA web page 70% of the earth is covered by clouds. I can relate to that because my personal life seems to have the same percentage of cloud cover. It is only when the sun breaks through to reveal clear skies that hope is revealed. Having been married to a commercial pilot, I was aware of our captain’s navigational skills would bring us to a safe landing even though my view was impeded by cloud cover.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV

Like our pilot, God is able to navigate in any weather, even when we don’t have a clear view of where we are headed. When He signals it is safe to freely move about our daily life, do not fear; unlatch the safety belt and enjoy the trip. Let God, your pilot, control the course to your final destination. As the plane began its descent to San Francisco, the clouds began to dissipate and gave way to clear skies. Once landed, the captain announced, “Welcome to San Francisco, folks. It’s 72 degrees with clear skies. I hope everyone has a great day.” When life is overshadowed by cloudy skies, know your only chance of hope is to trust God’s navigational skills for a smooth landing.

#devotional #cloudywithachanceofhope #denisemarksblog

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BROKEN

Broken in Spirit
I find solace in walking the wooded trails behind my home. The sound of crackling branches beneath my feet and rustling leaves from the canopy of trees above seems to awaken my senses. Daily things that seemed so urgent are momentarily abandoned as I slow my pace and embrace my surroundings.

Yesterday, I needed the respite the trails offered. It had been a 10 hour wait in ER before mom was finally admitted to the hospital. Overwhelmed with exhaustion, I longed for quiet time to meditate and digest the events of the day.

My plan was to curl up on the sofa and do nothing; instead, I walked the trails. For whatever reason, I sensed there was something God wanted to privately share with me. And so, with walking stick in hand, I headed toward the trails.

I probed the ground with my walking stick in search of anything that might bring inspiration to my emotionally charged day. Frustrated, I bowed my head and silently prayed.

“OK, God, a still voice prompted me to take this walk; what is it you want to share with me? “

Immediately the wind seemed to whisper “look upward” and my gaze was directed to a pine tree with its trunk nearly broken in half; most likely, by an expected storm. The tree appeared to be in survival mode with signs of new growth just below the break as it struggled to find light. In that moment it was clear what God wanted to share with me.

The events of the last few weeks have left me feeling much like the pine tree that stood before me; broken and struggling to reach upward to the light. God understood the heaviness of my heart. My merciful Heavenly Father had directed me to this pine tree to speak to my heart that in my brokenness he was near.

It is our brokenness that attracts God’s attention and reveals our need for His mercy. When we acknowledge our dependence upon Him, the Holy Spirit shines a searchlight to help us find our way. New life sprouts as we reach toward the beacon of light.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalms 51:17
“The Lord is near those with a broken heart.” Psalms 34:18

To those who are broken my life circumstances and losses, I say look up. God is near and longs to cradle your heart in His Divine hands and breathe new life into your spirit.

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I DON’T KNOW ABOUT TOMORROW

WhoHoldsTomorrow

The past several weeks have been filled with heartache. I lost a good friend to cancer and a family member at age 59 to Alzheimer’s. I grope for words of comfort to share with those families torn with grief at the death of a loved one. Amidst this recent roller coaster ride of emotion, I received word that a cousin has been diagnosed with liver/colon cancer. The devastating diagnosis comes just days after her sister’s husband was laid to rest.

Nothing equips us for the detours of this earthly journey. We can prepare, plan and pray, but ultimately, we can’t control our future. For me, the reality of our human limitations was most realized as I watched my Daddy take his last breath. He was a dedicated minister, pastor and Bible teacher. His commitment to his faith was unquestioned; yet, he suffered a debilitating disease that led to death. He couldn’t control his future.

Did my Daddy pray for a miracle? Of course he did. Did he question or understand the earthly path God had chosen for him? If he did, he never shared those thoughts. Instead, he chose to accept those things he could not change and to live each day with hope and purpose.

Only God knows what tomorrow holds for us, our nation and our world. Satan continually deploys detours to keep us from following God’s divine plan.
His earthly arsenal includes sickness, disease, addiction, poverty, abuse, persecution and even death in his attempts to undermine our commitment of faith in Jesus Christ. Stand firm in your Christian faith; refuse to let the enemy compromise or have a stronghold on your faith.

This is a song my Daddy would sing in church when I was a youngster. It still seems very appropriate.

I DON’T KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW
I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.

CHORUS:
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But, I know who holds tomorrow
And, I know who holds my hand.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Romans 8:38