Don’t Look Back

(Photo by Roman Bintang on Unsplash)

Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:14-17, 23-26

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Lot’s wife. I’ve been trying to imagine myself in the midst of all the sin she was surrounded by and the feelings of anxiousness I might feel. I would want out, and fast. I would want my family protected from all of that.

God, with his amazing mercy, allowed them to leave the land before he destroyed it. This was it! This was her chance to flee, to take her family to a better place. What relief. She was given one command, “Don’t look back.”  Seems easy enough, right? I mean it was horrible there, I’m free to leave and rescue my family, so why in the world would I look back?

Yet, as she was leaving the land, human nature was more than she could bear. She turned and looked back.

Why? I have several assumptions… We can never really know, because she was turned into a pillar of salt, so no one can get her thoughts. There was no interview to be had because, well, she wasn’t able to speak. My mind could only imagine a few reasons why she may have looked back.

Maybe she was afraid of the unknown. What she was living in was horrible, yet she knew it. She knew what to expect, and she may have gotten comfortable with the sin around her.

woman-looking-away-1493398138zofMaybe she was afraid for the people left there.

Maybe she made relationships and she didn’t want harm to come to them.

Maybe she was hoping God would change his mind and give them one more chance.

Maybe Satan said to her, much as he did to Jesus, “Did God really say he would destroy them?”

Whatever the reason was, I’ve often thought about how many times in this life I’ve looked back.

There are times in my life when I’ve wondered if I made right decisions, questioned myself when I knew I had heard God, looked back and wondered why I took that new position or why I moved to a certain place. Was it me making those decisions? If God spoke to me and told me to do these things, would I have trials? Would it be this hard?

Friend, we have to make the decision today to stop looking back. He never said everything would be easy if we followed him. In fact, he said we would encounter trials along the way, but to consider that Joy because our faith would be stronger. Whatever you hear the Lord telling you to do today, do it. Don’t look back. Even when you are tempted to question, keep your eyes focused on Christ and the prize laid before you. Don’t be a pillar of salt, be salt and light to the world. Keep moving forward with Christ in the lead.

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Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

Seek the Truth

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ear they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:4

 Most Saturday mornings I try to steal away for a few hours and go on a long walk by myself. Sometimes I’ll just talk to the King, and sometimes I’ll enjoy a virtual companion or two, usually some of my favorite Bible teachers. On one particular long-walk morning last fall, I found myself wrestling with some tough questions. I’d immersed myself in the Word, studied it prayerfully, and the Spirit began to resolve some of my issues. But I found myself needing some extra help sorting through the weeds to get to the good fruit. I knew it was time to seek out some solid counsel.  

pexels-photo-1708936.jpegI have learned over the years to be exponentially cautious when it comes to reliable sources on the Bible. I’ve dubbed my “go to” pastors/teachers the Fab Five. They are people I have put to the “truth test” and have found, though, and probably most importantly, because they aren’t perfect and don’t claim to be, they truly do ask hard questions and see the Word as the infallible, inerrant TRUTH. I started pondering what made these particular men and women stand above the rest, and I discovered they all have these characteristics in common: 

1) They are humble. They recognize they don’t have all the answers and they still have much to learn. They even go so far as to course correct teaching they believe they were mistaken on in the past. This is typically on a nonessential (not pertinent to the truth that Christ is the only WAY to salvation), possibly something that has shifted in them as they have grown in their understanding of the Word, or they’ve simply matured as a follower of Christ. But it’s their desire to live in integrity, in the way they teach, and in the way they rightly handle the Word of truth, that I believe is a vital quality for a Bible teacher.

2) They consider the Bible as the most valuable commentary on the Bible. Every point, every idea, is supported with scripture, and seeking the whole counsel of God’s Word is preeminent in their ministry.

3) They focus on the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Not on a church or on a ministry or a denomination, but on the absolute beauty and power and grace and profoundness of Jesus Christ crucified, died, and risen again for our salvation and sanctification. 

4) They encourage their listeners to examine the truth for themselves. They never teach that their way is the only way to interpret the scriptures, they encourage their listeners to keep them accountable and reassure them that if they have the Holy Spirit as their guide, they have all they need to examine the scriptures. 

5) They don’t try to make the scriptures fit what seems “right in their own eyes” but let the scriptures speak—in context and in power and sometimes in mystery (Deuteronomy 29:29). 

If you are seeking to walk in the truth, be discerning and prayerful about who you go to when you are wrestling with the Word. Go to teachers you know you can trust to equip you and point you directly back to the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Seek out men and women who will pass the litmus test of 2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” And remember the truth that follows directly after it in 2 Timothy 2:16 “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” (Gross!). Don’t be afraid to stand firm on truth and put Biblical teachers to the test. Because you too, want to be counted among those who are not ashamed, but are seeking to rightly handle the Word and think on what is true.

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Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

 

 

 

Ain’t Nothin’ Like a good Yarn

There’s a hymn I like. I like the words “I love to tell the story….something, something” I forget the rest but then I hum the tune. I like it because the words resonate with me. I do indeed love to tell a story. I love to hear a good story too.

Once in the third grade I learned another name for story was yarn. I underlined that vocabulary word, yarn, put a dash out beside it and defined it as a narrative of adventures, or in other words, a fabulously told story. I’d already had much experience with such things. I come from a long line of yarn spinners, and by the time 3rd grade rolled around and provided me another name for a story, my love of one had already been declared.

240_F_174659593_Jt21ciyKWDwmmTcreU84GRrwon5WPkQZMy Aunt Sis, yep that’s a thing, an Aunt Sis, a for real person, who can spin a yarn better than most. She filled my 9-year-old ears with tales of the poor Hinkle children barefoot and stair-stepped playing for hours in the woods. She told of me about adventures long since passed and mostly forgotten, adventures that’d’ve even made Huck Finn jealous. I reckon the love of a good story comes from deep within the roots of who I am.

Part of a good story is the teller. The narrator of the story has the power to make or break it. I practiced my yarn skills growing up and to this day when my story gets a little heavy on insignificant details, a little long on the verbiage my mama will often, in an exasperated tone say “For the love!!! Land this baby!!” That means, I’ve talked too long and it’s time to wrap it up. Sometimes I can hear her in my head when I am posting on the Facebook, writing out a Blog post, recounting my day, any number of storytelling mediums. I can hear her saying the same “For the Love! Land this one already.” I’ve just a mind to do that.

There is a particular Storyteller who happens to be one of my favorites. I love how he carefully weaves his words together to produce such an accurate picture I can almost smell those biscuits his mama cooks or feel the air of the Alabama mountains. Unlike another one of my favorites, I’ve never met this guy. He’d likely say, “Amy Martin who?” unless of course he coincidentally knew one of the other 900 Amy Martins in the state of Alabama.

He regularly writes for 2 of my favorite periodicals. I asked mama just the other day if she’d gotten her latest edition of the issue to which she holds a subscription. His writings require trips to the library for me to catch up on his wordsmithing publications. However there is one, that like many Southerners, my Mama holds a subscription. She reads it and places it on the coffee table knowing I’ll make my way there to read it. I will often head to her house, make myself a Pepsi on ice, settle in my favorite chair, flip to the next to last page of the newest issue and find his article. We meet regularly, the Author and I, having settled in for a one-sided conversation with an old friend. It is a few moments every month I truly enjoy.

So when recently I inquired about the location of her latest issue to my dismay she said, “No, I let my subscription run out.”

photo-1469708105586-50396e970312I debated going to library or even the dreaded Big Store of Confusion to see what my friend had to say for the month. But as it would happen, after a drive in a torrential downpour, peering through foggy windows and a safe arrival 10 minutes late for an appointment, I looked on the waiting room table and there he sat, as if he were waiting for me to come in from the rain. In that long-awaited issue, He talked of New Orleans and beads and hotdogs. I mused at his statement about the men in Dr Seuss hats, “because you couldn’t get snockered enough for a Dr. Seuss hat, even if you had not grown up Congregational Holiness.” The King must’ve known when he prompted its placement on a table, I needed it desperately. A little something just for me. It was in fact, a reminder that the King knows the little things and the big things and is concerned with the details of my life.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. Psalm 139:1-4

 

Construction Zone: Illumination

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4

The focus of our women’s ministry this year “Rooms Full of Riches,” is based on the verse above from Proverbs. The purpose is to equip us to build our lives and homes on Biblical wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. In our winter session we dug into the wisdom of Proverbs, applying God’s Word to building our homes and lives. (In fact, that concentrated study on home-building is what prompted this series of “Construction Zone” blogs.) So, if you are reading this and find yourself desperate for wisdom and instruction in your day-to-day life, the collection of wise truths from the book of Proverbs will most likely have something to illumine your situation. scripture tells us in the book of Psalms that His word is a lamp for our feet and a light on our path. (119:105) dark_street_195913

According to dictionary.com, a proverb, in general, is “a saying popularly known and repeated, usually expressing simply and concretely, though often metaphorically, a truth based on common sense or the practical experience of humankind.” The book of Proverbs from scripture does just that, it expresses God’s truths simply and concretely. And since we Believers accept God’s Word as The Truth, sayings from the book of Proverbs carry much more weight than secular proverbs we hear in life, such as “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

The introductory words of the book of Proverbs explain its purpose this way: 

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:1-7

 

I want to gain wisdom. I need wisdom. Life is hard, and sometimes I just don’t know what to do. I need insight and understanding. I want to receive instruction for how to know what is right and to help me figure out how to live in this fallen world. Don’t you? And I want the real stuff – real wisdom – not the “wisdom” we get from well-meaning acquaintances telling us what we want to hear that’s not necessarily the truth. Wisdom that will help me dig out from under my junk and really deal with life instead of adding more confusion or complications, that’s what I want. You know what I mean?

Currently, I’m reading through Beth Moore’s Portraits of Devotion each morning this year, and this verse from the book of Proverbs popped up:

light_lamp_196504For a command is a lamp, teaching is a light, and corrective discipline is the way to life. Proverbs 6:23 HCSB

That’s what I want: instruction that lights my way as I journey through life. The kind of wisdom that comes from scripture and is lived out in those obedient to His Word. We can have that wisdom! How? James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. If we do that wisdom will be given to us. Have we asked for wisdom lately? Or are you like me? Are you more apt to ask God to rubber stamp your opinion of what you wish would be done in a situation? If we get to the point we really want what’s best more than we want our way, all we have to do is ask, because “The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

Have you ever prayed, “Lord just write it out on a sign and tell me what to do?” I have. But I’ve never had a real billboard show up with it spelled out for me like my friend Amy has. What I have experienced most often is one of those Proverbs 6:23 flashlights shining on a dark, scary path and illuminating only about 3 steps in front of me at the most. But guess what? When I take those three steps, the illumination spreads on ahead of me to show the next 3 just like our verse above talks about! And it doesn’t just shine light for that path, but it teaches me and corrects me so that the next time I’m on a dark path I’ll remember the lessons learned and walk through that path with more peace and strength. So maybe it’s best for me NOT to get a road sign. Maybe I learn more how to live. Then it’s not just a temproary fix, but a teaching, growing experience.

dark-forest-landscape-1.jpgI’ll never forget one particular family trip to Virginia. We had left Alabama in the wee hours of the morning and found ourselves exiting the interstate at dusk. Darkness came on us quickly as we drove up the winding road to the cabin we had reserved online. There were other cabins along the deserted road, but they were spaced far apart on mountain peaks just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. By the time we reached the gated, dirt road to our cabin it was near 9pm and pitch black. My husband jumped out, unlocked and jumped right back in the car, the thought of bears and rattlesnakes unspoken between us so as not to alarm the kids. A mile of steep, bumpy clay “driveway” and we were at our destination. No lights. No moon. 4 kids. Luggage. The unknown. The fears. We managed to get all of us, and items necessary for the night, into the cabin and collapse into bed within the hour.

Next morning, we awoke to the sun streaming in. The cabin was delightful. The view was amazing. The fears were gone. Nothing had changed about the cabin and its surroundings, except that it was now illuminated by glorious sunlight. That week was one of our best vacations ever. The funny thing is, after days full of vacation fun, every night we came back to our home-away-from-home about 9pm – in the dark! But guess what! It wasn’t scary any more. Once the dark road had been illuminated, the fear was removed.

As you travel through dark times of life, seek illumination from God’s Word. Proverbs is a good place to start. The book of Psalms works too. The Gospels, Paul’s letters, it all brings light to our life. It instructs. It illumines. It reassures. We are reminded of Jesus the Light of the World, who has conquered darkness.

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A Word of Hope to Moms

To the mom whose kids are grown and gone and you’re now caregiver for your sweetheart of many years – God sees you!

To the mom who is bleary-eyed and greasy-haired and in the midst of a cluttered house nursing a sick baby – God sees you!

To the mom who is a mother at heart but not physically a mother yet and desperately yearns to be – God sees you!

To the mom of the addict that leaves you fearful to hope, struggling to maintain your faith, and desperate for relief – God sees you!

To the mom of a child put in your care because his own biological mom isn’t allowed to have him right now, who puts in hours of prayer and caring and playing and guiding – God sees you!

To the Spiritual mother of many tender souls, who has a purpose greater than you realize – God sees you!

To the mom whose heart is torn, spirit is beaten down, and fears abound every single night – God sees you!

To the mom of a chaotic houseful, running here and yon and burning the midnight oil – God sees you!

To the mom of a child that struggles with physical, mental, or emotional trials that make your life seem anything but “normal” – God sees you!

To the mom of a grown woman who you worry and fret and pray over, longing for her to come fully into God’s purpose for her life – God sees you!

To the mom who feels abandoned, unseen, forgotten – God sees you!

To the single mom doing it all with a tired body, a tight budget and no real help – God sees you!

To the mom of a rosy pink newborn who finds herself overflowing with joy, but also with doubts and fears she’d never imagined having – God sees you!

To the mom waiting to adopt – longing and choosing and knowing that she is Yours, but waiting for the red tape to make it real – God sees you!

To the mom to many, the matriarch of the family who has seen many changes and ups and downs through the years – God sees you!

To the mom who is on her knees every morning for that wandering, lost child that you fear will never turn back to his heavenly Father – God sees you!

To the mom of teens trying to trust enough, be protective enough, sleep enough, guide them enough, be patient enough… God sees you!

To the mom of that child who has cut you off from a relationship with them and leaves you with more questions thatn answers – God sees you!

To the mom of preteens in the midst of a whirl of emotions that can turn on a dime, and a whirl of technology that you can’t seem to keep up with and protect them from – God sees you!

To the mom outcast, or with an outcast child, grieving for loss and friendship – God sees you!

To the mom watching your child slowly die, feeling all hope draining away as life is draining away. – God sees you!

He sees you.

He knows you.

He loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Yes, you!

“She [Hagar] gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’  for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ ” Genesis 16:13

“Since ancient times no one has seen, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 64:4

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

Incompatible with Life

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

 

I have been following the blog of a little girl named Lavendar for about and year and a half now. Lavendar was born with a condition called Trisomy 13. I have read posts written by her mom as she chronicles life with this little blessing. One of the first posts I read detailed the first meetings with the doctors as they discussed the baby’s life and what her prognosis would be. Lavendar’s mom and dad were told that she was “incompatible with life.” Imagine hearing those words describing your baby.

I have read many posts but for some reason those words “incompatible with life” have stayed with me. God has used these words to show me that this is exactly what satan seeks to render each and every believer as we seek to follow God. For every step forward we take, satan schemes to pull us backward and tries to convince us that we are not worthy of the life God has given us. God has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives and gave His son freely so that we might not only have life but that we might have abundant life. Christ came so that you and I could live our lives in the freedom that salvation brings. No condemnation for past mistakes, no condemnation for future mistakes, but freedom. If satan can convince you and I that we are “incompatible” with this life, this abundant life, he has paralyzed us in our Christian walk.

The blog posts chronicling Lavendar’s life are so encouraging. Her mom is a constant source of joy and is so quick to see each obstacle they have faced as an opportunity to move forward, to seek the joy in her situation and even though her little girl may not be free of the tubes and monitors that her condition brings, she is content. She speaks frequently of the struggles they face but there is an undertone of gratitude in each post. It reminds each time I read them to find the joy, the contentment in knowing that this life and all the struggles we face is just a vapor compared to the peace that is to come. True peace comes when our hearts and minds are stayed on him and He is our joy. Circumstances change but God never does. He is constant even when I waver, He is faithful even when I am not. One day sin and sorrow will give way to worship and praise and the thought of shedding a tear will not even enter our minds!

I am thankful for a God who saw me for what I could be and not what I was. He looked beyond the scars and the hurt and said “this one is worth saving”. He saw my heart as a place He could reside! He looks at you and me and sees a life that He can use! Life that is in tune with His heart and ready to be used for His glory!!

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Jeremiah 1:5

Respect is Learned by Example

Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17

We lost another policeman.

I used to ask where did this one happen but it doesn’t really matter where, although this one was close to home. We are losing too many.

I knew the funeral was planned and that there was to be a processional, but I was going to be out of town. When we were headed back to the airport, my daughter showed me a picture that brought tears to my eyes. The picture was of a female deputy in her uniform, standing at attention in the rain, saluting as the procession of her fallen brother went by. 012419-wabc-umbrellaphoto-imgA gentleman had stepped up to hold an umbrella over her to shield her from the rain. Tears filled my eyes as I looked at this picture. To many she is a face without a name, but we know her name. She is a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a deputy. I have loved her since the day she was born. I realize that I do not understand the depth of her loss but I love her dearly. She was not able to go to the funeral but took her break during the funeral procession. As she saluted the procession in the rain, a gentleman opened his umbrella to protect her from the rain. What respect he showed to her. To the dear sweet face in the picture, my prayer for you is that the Lord will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 58:8).

Greater love has no man than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 ESV

I am so thankful for our men and women in uniform whether it be military, first responder, or police officer. I have honor and respect for each of you and your family. I know there were others standing along the procession route in the rain. I am thankful for the respect the man showed this young lady in uniform to hold an umbrella over her to shelter her from the rain. To this young lady whose name I know, I love you and I pray that The Lord will continue to “bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 ESV

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” Psalm 144:1-2 ESV

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.“ Ephesians 6:10-11 ESV

I Salute You.

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But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

National Day of Prayer

Jesus Himself calls us to be people of prayer in Matthew 21:13 he tells us,

“It is written,” He said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer.”

Today, on the National Day of Prayer, let us focus on praying – pray alone, pray in groups, pray at your house of worship. Pray for your nation, your state, your county and city, and for your local church, neighbors, friends, and family. Scripture reminds us why to pray, what to pray, how we should pray, for whom we should pray, and even results we can expect.

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. Matthew 26:41 

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:22-25

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:28

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:16

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. Ephesians 1:18

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I praythat you, being rooted and established in love. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 3:16-20

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. Philippians 1:9

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:6-8

girl-20878_1280Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. Colossians 4:2-3

Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 1 Thessalonians 5:25

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonian 1:11

 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. Hebrews 13:18

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. James 5:13-18

Join us at GFBC to pray. The sanctuary will be open. Tune in to the National Day of Prayer services being televised at 6:30 p.m. on the Daystar Network.

PRAY!

Attention to the Details

“My word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”        Isaiah 55:11

She comes from a long line of art lovers.

Her Daddy, Mama, and Grandmother are each artists in their own right.

She loves to draw and it is the form of communication where she is most at ease. I’ve learned much about her from studying those drawings. Sketchbook after sketchbook filled with telling information. She has aptly named them journals. Every week since she was in about the 3rd grade we have attended weekly Bible Study. Since we began, our Bible Study journey our Bible Study day looks a tad different.

It starts on the Tuesday night before with “Set Up” and finishes on Wednesday evening as I collapse into a jello-like heap on the sofa. Wednesday night supper is always referred to as “Brain dead food” because I am so brain-dead I can not even think clearly sometimes. Studying the King’s Word in-depth has been real good medicine in my life and I am thankful that it is readily available for me and my Modern Day Bethany Three.

But, I ain’t even gonna lie, there have been times I’ve wondered if any of them even absorb anything. If the days of “doing their homework” isn’t just a check off on the day to avoid the wrath of Mama and teacher and going to the aforementioned Bible Study isn’t just a time to see their friends. Recently, after a social skills inspired game of Apples to Apples I instituted mandatory quiet time. Charlotte positioned herself into our sunroom. When she emerged she had independently completed a most complicated adult Bible Study lesson. Evidently she was able to recall the answer to a question I had about a particular something from a previous week, and in answering had begun to draw what in her mind’s eye was the answer.

High_Priest_Offering_Sacrifice_of_a_GoatI was in awe of the detail. The special Priestly Garments, even when we studied it, the details amazed me, perhaps it is because I don’t always see the details. A few weeks prior, we studied the covering of the priest, his role and all that surrounded his duties. We noted how all of that was a word picture of what was to come and we Martins decided we were glad we were living in the time of Grace, the time after Messiah. When we no longer needed “ginger cows” aka a red heifer to be purified.

We giggled when we thought about how Daddy would look dressed as a Priest or how mad I might be if I weren’t one and couldn’t talk to God directly. We rolled when we decided Shelton wouldn’t so much mind the smell of it all and how gross so many of the duties were. We’d concluded Shelton could in fact, be the only one of us that could’ve carried out the duties without losing his sacrificial blessed lunch.

The conversations we’ve had as a result of studying together are some of my most treasured, that I’ve tucked away in my mama heart. None of which we would’ve had if we weren’t studying the same thing. I love that in her illustration, Charlotte made light of a dreadful situation, that despite the obvious presence in the desert and the constant whining of the Israelites, there was still joy and silliness she found. I’ve said often, throughout that year’s Journey from the Red Sea to the Jordan River, that I totally can identify with Moses and even the Lord. I know what it’s like to make a trip with a bunch of ungrateful, whiny kids, and I can sympathize. The Martin 3 usually look at me blankly and don’t say anything.

Truth is I’m one of the whiniest ones and no doubt the King thinks the same about me. It is to Him I am thankful for opening the door of His Word for us Martins, for easing the trip through the desert place, for giving me glimpses into how He works in the life of the Martins, and for the reminder that He concerns Himself with the details.

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Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

Communion

In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’   Exodus 13:14a

As a child sitting on a pew, I remember watching the tears fall gently down my mother’s face as she held the small cracker and the little plastic cup of purple grape juice in her slender hands. I looked intently into her face, leaned into her ear, and asked her why she was crying. I was concerned, and curious. She told me because of the meaning…all that it meant, the implication of those two little things, and all they represented. How they were a reminder of all Jesus had done, and all He was going to do.

In all honesty, I do not remember her exact words that day in church. I cannot recall the precise description or the heart-felt explanation of her tears. However, I can tell you this: I was never the same. The bread and the cup became so sacred, so precious, such a treasure from then on. I longed to experience what she was experiencing in that moment.

CommunionBaptistNow, as a mother myself, it’s rare that I take the bread and the cup without tears falling down my face. The treasure of the moment stirs a joy deep in my soul. And, it is also my turn to look into a concerned little face, with whispering lips, and lean my ear toward a curious child…asking, “What does this mean?” And just as my mother did all those years ago, I tell my child how by the “strength of His hand, the LORD” has done marvelous things.

As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it,

gave it to the disciples,

and said, “Take and eat it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks,

he gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you.

For this is my blood of the covenant,

which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Matthew 26:26-28

Although I’ve experienced one Passover Seder, I remember very little about the details of what was on the Passover Table that last time Jesus sat with his closest followers just hours before his betrayal by Judas and subsequent trial, scourging, and ultimately his crucifixion. However, there are two items I will never forget: the Bread and the Final Cup.

If my memory is correct, during the meal, the middle of a stack of three unleavened pieces of bread is taken and broken as it is passed and shared. Jesus said, “This is my body.” The disciples were the first to hear this new line in the Seder script, this revelation that had been concealed for hundreds of years was now unveiled to them, and would become so utterly tangible in the days to follow. The unleavened bread cracks and snaps in the hands of those at the table. His body would be broken for them – and for us. This symbolic meal, a foreshadowing in ages passed would be fulfilled, lived out, and demonstrated in living, vibrant colors in the days, hours ahead. No longer would the symbol be a veiled-foreshadow, but forevermore, a completed fulfillment of all the Law, all the requirements, an accomplished work, and a bright vantage point of view of our final redemption and salvation. The breaking of the bread at the table that night would be part of the forever confirmation that Jesus Himself was the Yes and Amen to all the promises of God.

I’m confident there is no way the disciples would or could have grasped in the moment everything that was actually happening; but as you and I can now sit and read the account of this holy meal, do we see the significance? Can we grasp the gravity of the moment? Holy Spirit, enlighten our minds.

Hallelujah.

After the bread, next comes the cup of that deep-red liquid from the crushed fruit of the vine. The color of the communion grape juice has always been a favorite of mine. The combination of the red, purple, almost black and blue holds such depth in that little plastic cup I hold between my fingers at my church pew.

When Jesus lifts the cup and declares it to be His blood of the New Covenant, I can’t help but wonder if Abraham and Moses were leaning off the front porch of Heaven, recounting in their own minds the impact of that cup, the impact of a New Covenant, the significance of a New Covenant with the Covenant-keeping God, and the stark realization that there is no covenant made without the shedding of blood.

Although the words of the Seder script in this portion I cannot recall, there is one line in the Holy Scripture that catches my attention every time I hear it. There’s this one thing Jesus says that draws such a strong reaction from my heart every time I take the cup that I almost cannot contain my emotion…

He looks at his disciples and says,

I will not drink this again until I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:29)

Let that sink in.

Jesus is about to face the most intense, horrifying, grueling, strain of physical and spiritual agony and punishment; and yet He’s already talking about the victory that lies on the other side. He’s already talking about the banquet. He’s already talking about the true end of the story. He’s already looking beyond the betrayal. He’s already smiling past the beating. He’s already over the isolation He will experience. He’s already forgiven and finished the task. He’s already thinking past the grave. He’s already casting the vision for a new earth…the old will just not be there.

In that moment, He is preparing them for a kingdom mindset.

In that moment, He is training them for kingdom work.

In that moment, He is giving them victory for a battle yet to be fought.

In that moment, He is the Yes and Amen of all the Promises of God.

Anticipating that cup.

Do this in remembrance of Me.  1 Corinthians 11:24-25