Category: Grace


shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”

While searching for a quote on peace, I came across this little gem by the famous Jimi Hendrix.  Although, I’m not familiar with his music and career, I do know he is highly respected and celebrated as one of the great musicians in the history of modern music.  Since there has been much talk about peace and the possibility of achieving it worldwide, I wanted to look at why we have so much conflict over it.   Islam, which has dominated news headlines in the last few years, says that it is a religion of peace.  Members of the Jewish faith lavishly bid one another peace in every greeting of “Shalom”.  In Christianity, peace and goodwill toward men is highlighted in the Christmas celebration and its many carols that are sung.  Even those that don’t believe in any religion, atheists, wear the “peace sign” on jewelry, clothing, and anything that can display a symbol…so then, if everyone is for peace…why is there so much strife, fighting and war going on?   I believe the reason is all based on how one translates the word “peace”.

As I thought about what my interpretation of peace was,  my first thought was it means “no fighting” and images of a tranquil, calm scene came into my mind.  I looked up the word on an online dictionary site Merriam-Webster.com and read that the full definition of peace is

  1. a state of tranquillity or quiet: as  a :  freedom from civil disturbance  b :  a state of security or order within a  community provided for by law or custom <a breach of the peace>                                                                    
  2.  freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions  
  3.  harmony in personal relations     
  4. a :  a state or period of mutual concord between governments  b :  a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity 
  5. used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell.  

So I was pretty much right in the traditional sense of the word, but my love for word origins took over and I began to read further…

Middle English pees, from Anglo-French pes, pees, from Latin pac-, pax; akin to Latin pacisci to agree.

Hmmm…that got me thinking about what the meaning of peace is according to the Bible in the original languages it was written.  I  looked up the verse in Isaiah 9:6 where it says the Coming Messiah would be called the “Prince of peace” in the Interlinear Bible.  It shows the Hebrew word  shalom  which in Strong’s Concordance is defined as “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.”  I also looked up  the verse in Philippians 4:9 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.  In that verse, which was written in Greek, the word is eiréné  which in Strong’s Concordance is translated as “one, peace, quietness, rest”.   Right below it on the page was the HELPS Word-Study from HELPS Ministries, Inc.  which added:   (from eirō, “to join, tie together into a whole“) – properly, wholeness, i.e. when all essential parts are joined together; peace (God’s gift of wholeness).

So what does all of this mean?  It brought me to this conclusion:  the true meaning of peace is completeness, wholeness and oneness when joined or tied together with…God. But, how does someone become one or in unity with God, the Creator?  Easy…by believing on the Prince of Peace referred to in Isaiah 9:6 which is Jesus Christ and receiving Him into your heart as Lord and Savior.  But, how do you know that verse is talking about Jesus?  I know because 2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ. The reconciliation between God and man opens up a person’s soul to experience peace.   Furthermore, it is illustrated in the most popular quote from the Bible, John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  There is no other faith that has a Savior that atones for the sin of man.  There is no other faith that brings a message of grace and mercy from a Heavenly Father.  There is no other faith that offers salvation or freely gives everlasting life.

So there you have it!  I don’t know where Mr. Hendrix stood in regards to his faith, but his quote was quite profound and true.  The power of love comes only from God, because “God is love” (1 John 4:16).  By believing in Jesus Christ, that He died for the atonement of our sins, and rose again three days later, we are now one with God through Christ.  Peace is the result of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Experiencing God’s presence here on Earth is equal to nothing else.

So then, in answering the question “Will the world ever find peace?”  It’s all in how the world looks at it:  if it’s looking for an absence of conflict, no.  If it’s looking for true, everlasting peace,  it’s already here and available to those who call on the name Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace.

Have you receoved Jesus Christ into your heart as your Lord and Savior?  If not, and you would like to, please pray this prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,
I confess that I’m a sinner.  I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You sent Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross in my place to pay for my sins, and that He rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. I invite You, Jesus, into my heart and ask that You would wash me and cleanse me in Your blood. I thank You for Your love and mercy.  I make You my Lord and Savior. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

May you be blessed and enjoy His peace and presence!
 

shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331Life is full of surprises…Anyone who has experienced life for any length of time is clearly aware of the “suddenlies” that can happen, changing life as he or she knows it forever. Tom Hank’s character in the movie Forest Gump famously quoted “My momma always said ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Indeed, we do not. These surprises can be for the better, bringing joy. Or they can be challenging, a trial that we must face and go through, in order to grow and build character. As a believer in Jesus Christ, we must hold onto our faith and trust, knowing that He has the best plans for our life.

Today is Easter, marking the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, forever conquering sin and death, reconciling us forever with the Father. In the past few days, while observing Passion Week, I think of all the “suddenlies” that took place during the very first one, beginning with Palm Sunday. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, while the enthusiastic crowd cheered “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” while spreading out their cloaks and Palm branches before Him. Suddenly, He entered the temple, and angered by those who were taking advantage of earnest Jews trying their best to serve God, He threw over the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. All of this, of course, got the attention of the religious leaders of the law, and the Pharisees, and thus led to the beginning of their questioning of the authority of Jesus. If you went to church today, you most likely heard the events that took place 2000 years ago. There was another lesson while reading about the crucifixion that caught my attention, which involved Peter and his denial of Jesus on that fateful Friday that changed eternity.

What stood out to me, was how Peter reacted to all of the “suddenlies” that took place during that time. Peter was no doubt committed to Jesus. He left everything to follow Jesus as His disciple. He and his brother Andrew were the first to be called. It’s obvious throughout the gospel that Peter was a strong character who was often led by his emotions. He was the first one to declare Jesus the Christ in Mark 8:29, only to take Jesus aside moments later to rebuke Him for talking about what He was to endure. He was responding as any human would, but Jesus strongly rebuked Peter “Get behind me Satan! he said, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men!” in verse 33. Peter got the message, though he didn’t understand.

At the Last Supper, when Jesus broke the bread and offered the wine, telling the disciples what it symbolized, He to told them that they would all fall away on account of Him, as scripture foretold. Peter assured Jesus that he would never fall away. Even after Jesus told Peter by that very night, before the rooster crows he would deny Jesus three times, Peter declared “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:35) I don’t know about you, but I can almost hear the sincerity of Peter’s words, and his desperation of trying to convince Jesus of his commitment to Him. Hours later, what Jesus said would happen came to pass and Peter denied Him three times. It’s not that Peter wasn’t being honest at the time. Peter reacted to the events of Jesus arrest, as any human would. It’s easy to say you’ll “never do this or that” before it happens, but when reality hits, fear is a very powerful force to be reckoned with. Peter was afraid. Even after walking with Jesus for three years, seeing countless miracles and healings, and listening to Jesus’s teaching, Peter could only respond with what was in his heart, his own will and the logic of mortal man.

The good news is, that was only temporary. Peter wouldn’t stay that way, because you see, the next day, Jesus died on the cross. To the things of men, that was terrible, but to the things of God, it was VICTORY! The veil in the temple separating the Holy of Holies was torn in half, and man was now reconciled to God. Jesus not only bore the sins of the world at that time, He became sin, causing God the Father to forsake Him. HALLELUJAH! We will never be forsaken by God because of Jesus. We have a relationship with our loving Father, that was only possible through the sacrifice of Jesus. When word got back to Peter that Jesus had risen, he was the first disciple to run to the tomb.  Although John outran him and arrived there first, Peter was the one to enter into the tomb to see the strips of linen lying by themselves, no Jesus in sight, and he left wondering what happened (Luke 24:12). Later that evening, Jesus appeared to the disciples who were behind locked doors in fear of the Jews, and they were all overjoyed!

Jesus appeared to the disciples a third time, after an unsuccessful fishing trip. Jesus called to them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, and they experienced a miraculous catch of fish. After hauling them in, they ate with Jesus, and Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, allowing him to once again declare his love and commitment to Jesus. Jesus said each time to Peter’s response “Feed my sheep.” Each affirmation canceled out Peter’s earlier denial, reinstating Peter and Jesus prophesied how Peter would glorify God in his death. However, Peter once again showed his human spirit by asking about how John would die, which Jesus basically said that wasn’t any of Peter’s business to know. There was still one more “suddenly” that Peter would have to go through, to become all He was meant to become on this earth.

Before Jesus ascended up to Heaven, he instructed the disciples to go and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the days following Jesus’s ascension, Peter stood up among the believers as a leader. They drew lots to replace Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Jesus, and then went to wait in the upper room. It was there, on the day of Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit arrived like the sound of a mighty rushing wind, baptizing the 120 followers that were gathered there with fire. They began to speak in other tongues, as the Holy Spirit enabled them. Suddenly, Peter was emboldened to speak to a crowd that had gathered due to the commotion. He spoke with the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, and three thousand new believers were added to their number, thus marking the beginning of Christianity.

It was a series of events that occurred 2000 years ago, one day at a time, that made the difference for what the Church is today. We still have future one days that will further impact the world. Suddenly one day, Jesus will come back for the church. In the meantime, in our own lives, we can see the one days that can transform us to becoming more like Jesus — personal “one days” that make a difference in lives today. One encounter with God, and the Holy Spirit can make the hardest heart pliable, the fearful heart bold, and the faint in heart strong. From this point on, this side of the cross, Peter never again fell away from his faith, and carried the message of Jesus Christ, as a rock that the church could be built upon, that the gates of Hell could not prevail against…ever! (Matthew 16:18)

When you pray and seek to be filled with God’s power from on High, you can be confident that the Holy Spirit will empower and equip you, just like Peter, and you will have the ability to overcome anything that comes against you.

If you haven’t first prayed to receive salvation, please pray the following:

Dear Heavenly Father,
I confess that I’m a sinner. I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You sent
Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross in my place to pay for my sins, and that He rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. I invite You, Jesus, into my heart and ask that You would wash me and cleanse me in Your blood. I thank You for Your love and mercy. I make You my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Have a Blessed and Happy Resurrection Day, everyone!

shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331 Hello everyone!  It’s been awhile since I last posted.  I just got back from the movie theater, where I went to see the film Son of God produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. This is a beautiful depiction of the life of Jesus Christ. It made a deep impact on me and inspired a poem in response. I am awaiting a wonderful, glorious day like no other, when Jesus returns for His bride, the Church. It is that hope and anticipated joy yet to come, that keeps me going day after day. Jesus lives in my heart, and I sense His presence often…but what I experience now is only a little taste of the glorious joy that is yet to come when I and all who call on Him are with Him for eternity. I hope this blesses you!

The Joy Yet to Come

There’s a joy that awaits us that we cannot yet fathom
A glory our earthly flesh can’t contain,
When our Prince of Peace returns for us in the clouds,
Only the tried and true in us remain.

In an instant we’ll become imperishable,
Into immortal bodies we shall be clothed.
No longer hindered by sickness and death,
In His presence, beloved and betrothed.

There’s a time that awaits us, when all sorrow shall end.
By His hand, tears forever wiped away.
We will live in the light of His glory and love,
Night banished by endless day.

~ Linda J. Vandock

If you haven’t had a chance to go see the movie, I strongly encourage you to go. Here is a link to the official trailer:  http://youtu.be/uUja5WJFAXA

Enjoy and be blessed!

shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23.

I’ll never forget the early days of my Christian walk when the friends I connected with at church were very big into street ministries. This meant going into some very rough areas on a Friday or Saturday night with handfuls of Christian tracts. We would go outside of bars and nightclubs, heavy metal concerts, and adult bookstores to witness to people. The guy that headed this up had a real passion and drive to bring people to Christ and never wanted to miss an opportunity to talk to people about Jesus. Anyone who knows me, knows that approaching strangers and engaging in conversations isn’t one of my biggest strengths, so this was a real stretch out of my comfort zone. I just wasn’t a talkative person, although I’ve grown a lot in this area. I think back to a time when God tried to break me of this, on my first summer missions project with Teen Challenge in New York City. At the initial meeting where we were given our instructions, I was so relieved when I found out we would be going out in groups of three. Everyone else was so extroverted and out-going, I figured I’d be the one to pray quietly in intercession, while the other two did all the talking. The funny thing is, by the time the leader got to assigning me to a group, there was just one other person left, and he was even quieter than I was! Uh, Oh! How did that happen? That’s when I discovered the sense of humor of God. So I was in a position where I had to be bold and approach people, and I can’t tell you enough how mightily God used that trip to influence my life for him.

So right from the start, I learned that it was our mission to tell people the good news about Jesus Christ. I would do my part and always try to maneuver every conversation with anyone who didn’t attend church on a regular basis to the plan of salvation. After awhile, the guy who led our group at home went off to college and everyone else’s life went into different directions and so we stopped going out. I would occasionally find groups from other churches going out and would connect with them sometimes. Most people were open to us coming out and talking for the most part, but there were others not so cool with it. One time, we came up to some young people acting silly and playing around. Before we even said hello to them, one of them came up and threw a bucket of water on us. He immediately felt bad and apologized and spent a few minutes talking with us afterward, but after that incident, I did less street evangelism and began to focus more on witnessing in my everyday life.

As I was finishing up with college, I did my best to always bring faith into the conversation, but by that time, the world had begun to change. It was during the 500 year anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering America. My University had a conference depicting him as an evil person who brought ruin and destruction to the Americas. I had to attend because it was part of my grade as a Spanish major, even though I saw things from a different perspective. It was then, however, that there seemed to be a shift in the opposition toward Christianity. Long-time friends from college began to press me for answers on controversial subjects and then suddenly cut off their friendships as I answered with what the Bible said. It began to get very difficult. It didn’t help that I was also facing many other difficulties in other areas of my life. Businesses, including the one my dad worked for, began to close and move south after the North American Free Trade Agreement passed. My dad was blessed in that he just barely got his 30 years in, and received his pension and retirement package. Others he worked with were not and lost everything after 29 years of dedicated hard labor. It made for some tense times and it was harder and harder to keep talking about the plan of Salvation when emotions were so raw and ran so high. I began to grow very anxious about even opening my mouth at all since it meant certain ridicule and disdain, but I thought I could please God by continuing, so I did. Then one day, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and it made all the difference in the world for me. In fact, had He not spoken this to me, I probably would have burned out as a believer a long time ago.

It took place in an ESL classroom for third and fourth grade students, where I was called in as a substitute teacher from time to time. This particular lesson was a science lesson on fruit. I was going over a worksheet with the class that the teacher had left. As I pointed out to the students how the seeds were in the fruit, the Holy Spirit suddenly spoke to my heart at that moment and showed me that it worked the same way in the Spiritual realm as well. The seeds that we as Christians plant in the hearts of other people comes from the fruit of the Spirit that grows in us as we abide in Him. Jesus said in John 15:4-5 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” So much clicked for me at that moment. If we truly want to plant seeds in the hearts of people, we need to have our fruit developed which only happens when we abide in Him. It is in our developed fruit that yields the seeds that are to be planted. God has made it so that His Word is spread through us. The Word of God is powerful enough alone, as it is alive and does not return void, but when we deliver the Word, along with the words of our personal testimony of what God has done in and for us, demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit that we bear, there is no denial of the power of God and that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

This is further demonstrated by what the Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Love is a fruit of the Spirit, and without that love behind our words and motivating us, we will not be effective for the cause of Christ.    We only bear fruit from a true relationship with Him, through time spent daily in His presence and yielding our will to His.  It is knowing Him personally that we are compelled and want to share, no matter what, the wonderful, satisfying, strengthening, enriching love relationship that keeps us going day after day after day.   It’s the love, joy, peace, patience,  kindness, goodness,  faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that people see and are moved by.  It’s what sets us apart from non-believers and will draw those seeking for something more to us.  The more I grow in Christ, and understand how He gave His all for me, the more I want to give my all for Him.

If you have never invited Jesus Christ into your heart to make him, please pray this prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that I’m a sinner. I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You sent Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross in my place to pay for my sins, and that He rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. I invite You, Jesus, into my heart and ask that You would wash me and cleanse me in Your blood. I thank You for Your love and mercy. I make You my Lord and Savior. Amen.

You are loved!  Be blessed, everyone!

shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331“The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.   Every summer, as another chapter comes to a close on a school year, I can often look back at a particular moment, when something happens that tugs at my heart.  It’s a moment when I think to myself “Yeah…that’s why I’m glad to be a teacher.” Most of the time, it’s something a child has said or a picture that they have drawn for me. The previous year, that moment came on graduation day, and it involved five students. For graduation, students were allowed to dress up for the special occasion. The little girls came into the classroom looking like little princesses in their fancy dresses with little bows and ribbons adorning their hair. Some of the boys came in looking very handsome and suave, wearing a suit and tie, and others wore a very stylish shirt and nice pants. They were all so excited that their parents would be coming to see them sing and receive their certificates that afternoon; all, that is, except one little girl and four little boys. They came wearing their same old school uniforms. I called their parents during a break to remind them about the program, but the numbers were either disconnected, not in service or unanswered.

After the ceremony was finished, several parents wanted a picture of their child with the teacher, so I spent a few minutes posing for photos. After several minutes, one of the five came up and very excitedly said “My turn!” and stood next to me and put his arm around me. When no one responded or lifted their camera up, he said “Come on! Someone take a picture!” Gently, I had to tell him that they were only taking pictures of their own children. It broke my heart to see the disappointed look on his face. He said “My parents didn’t come.” and went back to sit down and wait with the other four children. After everyone had left, and it was just the remaining five kids and myself, we went back to the classroom and I did my best to celebrate the kids and take a group picture of them holding their certificates. We ate cookies, I let them pick out  whatever sticker they wanted, and then it was time to go. They seemed content as they left, and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to be there for them, but I knew that none of it could take the place of having their mom and dad there.

Every year, there are those one or two students in class that are very shy and keep to themselves. They sometimes come in with their clothes unwashed, or their hair uncombed. Their parents don’t come to the special events when invited. For whatever reason, their parents don’t seem to take or have the time to nurture them and show them how special they are. These kids are usually very quiet, and try not to attract attention to themselves.  They are, unfortunately, either ignored or picked on by the other kids.  It is these very children that keep me going as a teacher.  I could relate to these children on so many levels.  I was in sixth grade when I was singled out, made fun of and bullied in class by several students.   I was very shy, and every time someone called my name, I would blush a bright red color.  I also was a straight A student, so that was another strike against me.  No matter what I did or how I tried to fit in, I was teased mercilessly.  There were some difficult situations going on at home, so I never mentioned anything to my parents.  I continued to do my school work and even allowed some students to copy off me, so that they would maybe like me.  Of course, it didn’t work, and on the last day of school, a group of girls decided they wanted to beat me up after school.    I tried to ignore their taunting, but in the last half hour of the day, I broke out in tears.  The girls then felt bad and apologized.   I was very relieved and grateful the next year, when I was placed with a whole different mix of kids and made good friendships that year.  It brought a lot of healing.

In today’s culture, there is a criteria  set that people must meet in order to be considered valuable and successful.  People are judged on what they do, how they look, and how they handle themselves in social settings.  Women are judged on their appearance and what they wear.  More and more, there is a lot of emphasis on performance and competitiveness.  There is a time and a place for a healthy dose of these things in certain events; however, never ever should performance be a tool to measure a person’s worth and value.  Unfortunately, it is very rampant in our society.   Our educational system is set up in a way in which national tests determine which of our students are the best and brightest.  Those that don’t score well risk being labeled as low performers or “not as good” as their peers.  With tests now being given in Early Childhood Education, the competition and labeling is beginning before children even have a chance to develop their thinking skills.  In this data driven environment we now live in, they are burdened with working harder and studying more instead of exploring and discovering the world about them through play.  People are challenged to do as much as possible in a small amount of time.   Faster is considered better, which leads to more careless mistakes, less creativity, and lower quality overall.  There is a standard that is set by the world and those that don’t fit in or conform to that standard, are cast away or ostracized by society.  If one cannot produce something the world considers important and necessary, they are considered useless and throw-aways.   Pregnant women who discover that their unborn baby has a defect are strongly encouraged, if not down-right pressured to end the pregnancy.  Our senior citizens, whose health and strength begin to fail or slow down, are sometimes placed and abandoned in nursing homes.   It doesn’t matter that they have a wealth of wisdom, history or insight to share, they are left and forgotten.  It becomes a type of “survival of the fittest”.  The strong set the standard and the weak get left behind.  It would seem hopeless to live in a world so harsh and cold, but thankfully, we don’t.  There is a God of love, mercy and grace who sets the ultimate standard.  His standard is the only one that matters.

We can catch a glimpse of the nature and character of God towards those the world deems unworthy and rejects through a story in the Old Testament.    One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when David sought out and showed kindness to  Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, David’s best friend.  Even though Jonathan’s father, King Saul, grew jealous and sought to kill David, nothing could diminish the close bond that David and Jonathan shared .   David had been forced to be on the run, living in caves and hiding from Saul, but he and Jonathan’s friendship remained rock solid through it all.  When Jonathan died in battle against the Philistines, David grieved heavily for the loss of his dear friend.    Sometime later after David had become King, he asked “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness to for Jonathan’s sake?”  (2 Samuel 9:1).  Mephibosheth was brought in from where he lived and stood before David.  David spoke kindly to him and restored all the land that belonged to Saul.  Not only that, but he told him that he would always eat at his table, giving him high honor before everyone.  Now, Mephibosheth had grown up with two big strikes against him.  Mephibosheth lost his father, Jonathan, at the tender age of five.  The role of a father is so important, especially to a young son.  He had no father to turn to model what a true man is, no father from which to receive love, advice and guidance through life.   If that wasn’t hard enough, Mephibosheth was crippled in both feet.  His self abasement was clearly evident when he answered David with “What is your servant that you should notice a dead dog like me?”  It did not matter to David, he was the son of Jonathan and that superseded anything else.  It’s much like you and I, and every soul created by God, He loves us all and invites all of us to come to Him and receive our inheritance, our favor and our blessing from Him.  That invitation comes by believing in His Son, Jesus – His death on the cross and His resurrection.

The story of Mephibosheth resonates with the deep compassion of what God’s standard is.   His standard is that every human being is created in His image for a divine purpose.  He has a plan for each and every life that comes into existence.  He places gifts and talents along with different strengths and weaknesses in each and everyone of us.  He never looks at the outside appearance, but looks at the heart.   Nothing can separate the love of God from His children.  He promises that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.  His heart reaches out to the lost, the hurting.  He cares for the widows, orphans and the alienated. He is closest to those who are broken hearted and crushed in Spirit.  When Jesus walked on this earth, His ministry was for those who were sick.  He healed the lame, the blind, the deaf, the mute.  He made lepers whole again.  He reached out to those that were socially unacceptable.  Wherever He went, those He touched were made whole and healed of all afflictions and infirmities.  He sees those that feel invisible, and He walks with them.

We need to value the lives of others and see them through God’s eyes.  We need to defend those who are weak, speak for those with no voice, and seek justice for those who have been wronged.   Jesus said  in Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”   Our prayer should be that God would gives us eyes to see the invisible, that we may reach out to them.  We as believers can overcome evil with good, and show kindness and compassion to others, no matter what the circumstances are, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We have God dwelling on the inside of us, and God is love.

If you are one that feels invisible, know that the Creator of the universe sees you, and He cares about every concern you have.  Things may not make sense now, but a day is coming when they will.  If you haven’t invited Jesus into your heart or made peace with God, please pray this prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that I’m a sinner.  I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You sent Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross in my place to pay for my sins, and that He rose again from the dead.  I invite You, Jesus, into my heart and ask that You would wash me and cleanse me in Your blood.  I thank You for Your love and mercy.  I make You my Lord and Savior.  Amen.

We have the victory in Jesus!  Be blessed, everyone!

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Have you ever read something over and over and suddenly something astonishingly new jumps out and grabs you?  I’ve had that experience recently and it’s one of the most amazing, mind-blowing facts about the love and goodness of Jesus that I’ve ever tried to wrap my mind around…and it all has to do with a pair of dirty feet and a well-known, infamous disciple named Judas. A couple of weeks ago, while I was on Spring Break, I was reading John chapter 13 where Jesus showed “the full extent of His love” to the disciples”.  Another translation says that “he loved them to the last”.  This was John’s account of the last supper, the Passover Meal, that Jesus would share with His disciples.  It would be His last moments of personal time before the crucifixion with the twelve men that had left everything to follow Him.  Knowing what He had to go through Himself, He knew that His disciples would be shaken, confused, and for a short time, the bottom of their world would fall from beneath their feet.  He knew that these very men, would also be the ones to build the foundation of the Church on Him, the chief cornerstone, with the help of the Holy Spirit who they would meet in a little over forty days. 

The way Jesus showed His love, and taught them one of the greatest lessons on serving and humility, was through washing His disciples’ feet.  Since people wore sandals on their feet, and they didn’t have the nicely paved  streets and sidewalks that we enjoy today, the dusty roads made their feet really dirty, grimy and, as I hear kids at school say, nasty.  The commentary in my Bible states that washing feet was a menial task, normally performed by a servant, upon arrival.  At this particular time, there was no servant and no one else had volunteered which is when Jesus took action.  We know that He did this as an example for us to humble ourselves and serve one another.  This is always an excellent lesson to keep in mind and apply to our lives, most assuredly. However, there was another lesson inside this lesson that jumped out  and amazed me even more and that is found in verse 11 where it says that Jesus knew who was going to betray Him, and that would be Judas Iscariot.

Wow! Imagine that!  Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Heaven and the Lord of lords, washed the feet of Judas Iscariot knowing already that he was going to betray Him in just a few hours.  Don’t know why I never caught that before, but that thought just floored me.  I mean persecution from an enemy who doesn’t know or understand you is one thing, but betrayal by a friend, someone you love and have included in your life, is a whole different ballgame.  He didn’t wash everyone else’s feet and say to Judas “Dude, I know what you’re up to! You don’t deserve this! Go wash your own feet!” He didn’t give him an attitude, treat him coldly or heap condemnation on him.  No, Jesus showed him the full extent of His love, just like on the cross, He showed the full extent of His love for us. He knew that Judas’ actions were necessary to carry out God’s plan and fulfill scripture. Judas’ betrayal could still not separate him from the love of God.

It’s so hard in today’s culture to grasp how awesome the love, grace and mercy of God really is.  He set the example for how to respond to differences and adversities that seem to bombard us more and more these days.  When the world says “Kick that person that offends you to the curb!”, “Don’t give that “so and so” another thought!” and to “put that person in their place!”, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us  (Matthew 5:44): and to bless those who curse you (Luke 6:28).  If you try to give a gentle answer to turn away wrath, you get looked at very strangely by others.  Jesus purpose was never to try to reconcile us with the world, but to reconcile us with the Father.  God is love.  The message of the cross is the forgiveness and atonement for sin.  So why the added illustration of Jesus washing Judas Iscariot’s feet?  I believe it has a two-fold purpose.  It’s Jesus’ way of saying “I know it hurts to be betrayed and the pain is overwhelming, but I’ve been there and not only can you find it in yourself to forgive, but you can find it in you to serve and do good to those who betray you.” The second purpose I believe is for those who once were close to God, but fell away.  They believe, “I’ve done too much wrong in this life, I’ve disappointed Him so much, there’s no way He could ever accept me back”.  Jesus proves through the washing of Judas Iscariot’s feet, that His love and mercy are greater, than even the worst betrayal. Go to Him today, He’s waiting for you with loving arms wide open.

May you all have a blessed and peace-filled Resurrection Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know, it’s interesting that the older I get, the more I appreciate the holiday of Thanksgiving. As a child it used to be my least favorite holiday. I mean, c’mon! We had to eat turkey and traditional side dishes, when I’d much rather fill my tummy with pizza, hamburgers and fries. There weren’t any fun, lively songs, no cute characters bringing me gifts or candy. Except for the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Program, there weren’t even holiday cartoons to look forward to. I’m glad to say I’ve grown up a lot since then and now see the things I took for granted as a kid such as gathering with loved ons and reflecting on the simple gifts and freedom I have as priceless treasures to be cherished, indeed.

As a Christian, I’m thankful to God to earn a living in a job that invests in the lives of children. I’m thankful that my school had a Thanksgiving Program that allowed us to sing about being grateful. I’m thankful to have a Christian principal and that we begin each day with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Texas Pledge and a moment of silence. I’m thankful to have my own home, transportation, the freedom to pursue my own interests. I’m thankful for family and friends who open up there homes to me, put up with my suddenly bursting out into to song at random moments and laugh at my unique, off-the-wall sense of humor. (Well, at least fifty percent of the time anyway…). And of course, I’m most grateful for my relationship with God, experiencing His presence and peace, and a future with great promises.

Anyway, that’s enough about me. If you are a U.S. citizen of the still greatest nation in the world, you still have blessings to count whether or not you acknowledge the existence of the One who has bestowed them upon you.  There are a few obvious ones during this time that very often get overlooked.   Most Americans can be thankful to live in a country that still takes a day to close schools and most businesses to gather with loved ones for the sole purpose of showing gratitude to our great Provider (I’m talking about God, not any elected officials!). You can be thankful to prepare and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal, be it turkey and dressing, tamales and jalapenos or brisket, dirty rice and collared greens (whatever your meal preferences). We don’t have to take rations of food determined by the government or go without any food at all. Even people that are homeless and jobless can be grateful to have the choice to stay in a shelter funded by charities and faith based organizations. They are given food and clothing until they are able to get through the hard times and get back on their feet.  There are those that opt out and choose the streets instead, but they still can be thankful to have that choice available to them.

Even if you are one who rolls with the latest trends in society, fashions and commericialized versions of “Turkey Day”, you can be thankful as you eat your fill, watch football (Go Texans!), take a big nap to later stand in line for Black Friday deals. It means you have food to eat, a couch or bed to crash on, and time to do as you wish, money to spend on your choice in electronics, appliances, games, toys and any other thing your heart desires being sold in stores.

There are some who may not feel they have much to be thankful for as they may find themselves alone. I’ve spent a few Thanksgivings holidays by myself so I can relate. You can still be thankful to relax at home, accomplish some things you haven’t had the time to do lately, look into volunteering at community Thanksgiving dinners, and think about things you can change so that you in the future you won’t find yourself alone if you don’t want to be. One year, I decided to go to a cafeteria style restaurant, Lubys, located here in Houston, for a traditional turkey dinner. While standing in line watching families interact, a lady in front of me turned around and began talking to me. It turned out her family was working so she invited me to eat with her, and another lady she met in front of her who was also alone that day. We had a nice meal and conversation and I was touched to not have to sit and eat alone.

There is another group of people who’s gratefulness may be overshadowed by the loss of a loved one. Nothing will make you miss them more than going through holidays without them. You will cry and feel  great sorrow, but if you allow God into your grief, He will carry you through and give you peace, strength and comfort. When you’re able to look past the ache of their absence, you can be thankful you had those people in your life and the lessons you learned as a result of your relationship with them. You can cherish their memories and let it bring a smile to your heart. Three years ago on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I got a call from my mom that my dad took a turn for the worse and was asking for me. I flew in that night and got to spend his last days on earth with him. I was also given one of my greatest gifts that weekend and that was the opportunity to lead my dad into receiving Christ into his heart the night before he died. I know that I know that I know that I will see him again in Heaven.

I’m so thankful to have God’s promise of Heaven. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” I’m grateful that every hardship and trial I’ve ever endured will some day pay off in the everlasting joy and peace that is promised by God, who is faithful and true.  There is a glorious age to come to those who choose to believe and receive.   If you haven’t made this choice, I hope you will today!  It’s the best!

Be blessed! Happy Thanksgiving!