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THE SWORD

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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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MY CUP OVERFLOWETH

PoppyJuice“NeeNee,” shouted my youngest grandson at the top of his lungs, “I poured too much Poppy juice into my cup and it spilled all over.”

The grand kids coined the term Poppy Juice when they were old enough to drink from a sippy cup. It’s a blend of red fruit punch that Poppy mixes in a big jug; should it spill, you have one big sticky mess with a good chance it will stain whatever it penetrates.

I’m fairly certain permanent wheelie marks were left on my office floor as I flew out of my office chair in the direction of the kitchen. What I saw was a panic-stricken six-year old on his knees with paper towel stretched in every direction in an effort to stop the trail of red juice that covered the floor.

“I’m sorry, NeeNee, I didn’t mean to put that much in my cup.” The remorseful and tearful way in which he spoke those words resonated with me. In that moment, I saw myself at the feet of Jesus asking for forgiveness.

I can’t count the number of times my life’s cup has overflowed and required heavenly intervention and damage control to mop up my bad choice messes. Like my grandson, I tend to ignore the voice that continually calls out to be slow and careful and I find myself saying, “I’m sorry, Jesus. I wasn’t slow and careful like you asked. and my cup overflowed.”

With love and a forgiving spirit, my grandson and I worked together to bring restoration to a chaotic and messy situation. That’s exactly what Jesus does for us. When we cry out for help, He comes to us with love, mercy and forgiveness to clean the stains of sin that overflow from our life.

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Though we fall short of God’s glory, He made provisions to restore His glory within us through the cross of Jesus. He stands ready to restore our life messes and lead us in the paths of righteousness.

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ARE YOU A BRANCH THAT BENDS OR SNAPS?

IMG_0444I took a walk in the woods yesterday in search of specific branches to make fall wreaths. It is not uncommon to encounter deer, turkey and rabbits along the trails that run through the wooded area which is one of the reasons I love my property and the wetlands that surround it.

My youngest grandson, Fischer, accompanied me on the walk. I looked for branches while he searched for a strong and sturdy walking stick; the kind of stick he could bang against trees and fight off imaginary animals. Every once in a while I would stop, clip a few branches with my pruning shears and continue down the trail. Eventually Fischer wanted to help me.

“Here’s one Neenee. How about this one, it is really long?” he shouted as he ran ahead of me.
My reply was always the same, “Sorry, buddy, but that one will snap and break as soon as I bend and twist it into the shape I need.”

“How do you know if a branch will break?”

I pointed to a dead oak tree and said, “See how there is no growth on that tree? There are many branches that have broken off and fallen to the ground; they are now filled with rot and decay and will eventually get burned in the fire pit.”

He responded with “Oh” and continued to skip down the path whacking everything within reach of his walking stick. I, on the other hand, continued to seek out branches that would willing bend to my purpose.

As I walked back to the house and dropped my bounty, the following scripture came to mind:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15: 5-8

Let us seek to cling to the vine of Jesus so we can be shaped into His intended purpose.

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A PIECE OF HEAVEN

Heavens_carpetIt was a hot, humid day in Southern Missouri when my grandpa unloaded barbed wire and wooden posts from the bed of his pick-up truck to construct a cattle fence; I was age eight. When finished, he took a handkerchief from his work pants and slowly wiped his sunbaked brow. He lit a cigarette and inhaled the tobacco like it was a breath of fresh air and each time he exhaled, a dense cloud of smoke hung in the air. It’s funny the things you remember as a kid.

A few yards away, my grandma spread out a hand-made quilt beneath an oak tree and poured iced tea into plastic cups. As I sipped the cold drink, I pointed to something that clung to the base of several tree trunks.

I found a little piece of heaven.

“What’s all that green stuff, Grandma?”
“God uses that to carpet the gardens in heaven so you can walk barefoot without hurting the bottoms of your feet,” she answered.

“Grandma, do you think God would mind if I took home a little piece of heaven to show my teacher and classmates?”

She dug her fingers into a mound of moss and placed a handful into my empty cup and said, “I don’t think God would mind at all.”

I ran to show grandpa my cup filled with a foretaste of heaven.  As grandpa bent down to pick up another roll of barbed wire he pointed to a grassy area and said,

 “Over yonder, you might find some flowers for your heavenly garden.” I danced off in the direction he pointed to fill my cup with a little bit more of heaven.

For obvious reasons, the moss and wildflowers didn’t survive.  The flowers wilted in the heat and the moss turned brown from lack of water.  There was no opportunity to show classmates my little piece of heaven.

We are all given a piece of heaven while on earth.

God sees us as empty cups; vessels that need to be filled. He places a handful of abundant mercy and grace into our cup, and then fills it to the brim with everlasting life. The only thing that God requires from us is to water the contents of our cup daily with the Word of God and shade it from any heat generated by apathy.

 “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  Isaiah 58: 11 (NIV)

When it’s time for show-and-tell before God and His heavenly audience, what will be the condition of the contents he placed within your cup? I pray it will be lush and green; filled with flowers that bloom in every season.

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GAG or GROW

(As told by my daddy, Pastor Bill Lobbs)

gagOrGrow

In my growing up years, there were certain household rules we children were expected to follow. They were rules made by Mom and Dad with the good of the family in mind. However, some of them really didn’t make any sense to us as children. For example, Mom’s unchanging rule: you have to eat a little bit of everything served at mealtimes.

You are made to grow.

Most times that presented no problem because Mom was a fabulous cook. But there was one thing she sometimes served that did present a problem. At least it did for me, because I just couldn’t eat it without gagging. Spinach was its name and slick and slimy was its game. Meals with spinach became a time of intense suffering for me. I couldn’t stand the taste of it and just the thought of having to put it in my mouth made me sick.

The goal is growth, the soil is grace.

Mealtimes with spinach became a battle of the wills between Mom and me. Another one of her rules was that until we had eaten everything on our plate, we weren’t allowed to leave the table. Many times, after everyone else had left the table and Mom was doing dishes, I was still sitting there trying to force that spinach down my throat.

I remember her saying, “Eat it; it’s filled with vitamins and nutrition. Your body needs it. It will help you to grow.” In my childish thinking, anything that looked and tasted so bad could not possibly be good for me, no matter how many minerals or vitamins it contained. I thought the logical place for it was the garbage can, but Mom’s presence kept that from happening.

In the years that followed, I learned Mom was right, spinach was good for me. I did need its nutrients and it did help me to grow. Amazingly enough, because of Mom’s persistent I did learn to eat spinach without gagging.

The end of life is not happiness, but growth in character and achievement.

The Heavenly Father promotes growth in His children in much the same manner as a mother. The goal of both is to produce strong, healthy growing children. She wants hers to grow physically; Father God wants His to grow spiritually.

To accomplish this, both know it can require children to be served things they might not like, but are necessary for growth. When it is served we push it away and say,

“I know I’m not going to like this. It’s going to be a problem to me. I don’t want it, take it away.”

 But Father God says,

“I know you don’t want it. I know it’s going to be a problem to you. But it is good for you. It will help you to grow spiritually.”

When problems are served up in their life, many people believe God is mad at them, or perhaps He has abandoned them. They think they must be out of His will or those things wouldn’t be happening to them. But that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes it is within the will of God for us to experience problems in our life.

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the thick of what Christ experienced. This is the spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” I Peter 4:12-13, (The Message)

God’s scripture doesn’t reveal everything we would like to know on the subject of problems, but He does have valid reasons for allowing problems to be served up in the lives of His children. At the time, we may not understand His reasons; but afterwards, we find it was always for our good.  Each problem promoted spiritual growth and enlarged us in ways we never thought possible.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Let me share a personal word with you.

In those moments when everything seems to be against you, when you feel abandoned and question God’s presence, I say this: take heart and heart look up. God is at work in your life. He is behind the scenes leading, directing and molding your life and using these problems to do it.

If you are encountering struggles, hardships, obstacles and problems in your life, remember this:

·         It is struggles that make a person strong.

·         It is hardships that make a person an overcomer.

·         It is obstacles that provide a person with the greatest opportunity to excel.

·         It is problems that develop and direct us.

Andre Crouch wrote about this in his song entitled: Through it All.

I’ve had many tears and sorrows, I’ve had questions for tomorrow; there have been times I didn’t know right from wrong. But in every situation, God gave blessed consolation that my trials come only to make me strong.

I thank God for the mountains I thank Him for the valleys

I thank Him for the storms He brought me through. For if I’d never had a problem I wouldn’t know that He could solve them I’d never know what faith in God can do.

Through it all — through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus; I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all — through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

 

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INVENTORY LIFE’S LIABILITIES

ROX1ECA

January is the most despicable month on the calendar for me. Not only is it bitter cold, it is a month to gather tax information and determine the ending value of my retail inventory. It is essential to maintain adequate levels throughout the year to fulfill orders; but at year’s end, the unsold inventory becomes a tax liability and no one wants that.

Retail businesses try to forecast what items will turn a quick profit so warehouse shelves are empty on December 31. It’s a great concept in theory, but NOT in reality!  Just about the time I am ready to close-out a slow-moving item, customer interest spikes; and I am forced to increase inventory levels to keep up with the demand. And then, customers again lose interest and I’m left with inventory I can’t sell.

What excess inventory do you need to unload?

As the first month of a new year, January is an ideal time to take inventory of those things in our life that aren’t profitable and take up valuable space.  When you look at the spreadsheet of your life, what do you see? Did last year bring significant growth, did you break even; or, face liabilities because you failed to unload excess inventory?

It is no secret that every asset has a liability and every liability has an asset. So if every good has a bad and every bad has a good, it should all balance out in the end.  In the finance world this is true, but the balance sheet of ‘life’ is not that simple, if it were, we would all be happy.  

When life’s liabilities outweigh the assets, it’s time to unload excess inventory and restore balance to the spreadsheet of our life.

Here are ten helpful tips to minimalize life’s liabilities:

  • ·         Forgive, life is too short.
  • ·         Bag up past failures and toss them in a dumpster.
  • ·         Attach wrong choices to arrows and shoot them into infinity.
  • ·         Live life for you, not the approval of others. Give yourself permission to disappoint people.
  • ·         When faced with a crisis, remain calm and follow the yellow brick road. Even Dorothy faced obstacles, but managed to find her way home.
  • ·         Say goodbye to vampire friendships that suck the life and energy out of you.
  • ·         Strive to move within God’s will, not your own. To assume you know better than God will put you in the ‘red’ every time.
  • ·         Awareness is great, but action is required if you want to overcome.
  • ·         Discontentment that lingers will eventually erode joy.
  • ·         Less stuff means fewer things to weigh you down.