Monday, May 26, 2014

Who's your Daddy?

A popular song from the late 1960's has a line in it that says "What's your name? Who's your Daddy?" As I contemplated those questions, they prompted me to write today's blog post.

In Biblical times, a male was identified not only by his given name but also by his father's name. For example, Simon bar Jonah meant that Simon was the son of Jonah. Often times, there were many people sharing the same first name so it was important to know exactly which person was being referred to at the time. The use of the father's name helped with that clarification.To the Hebrews, a name was not a label, or just a tool to distinguish one person from another; a person's name was viewed as equivalent to the person himself. A person's name signified their person, worth, character, reputation, authority, will, and ownership.That is why names given at birth were so carefully chosen by the parents. But while a child's name was very important, the Father's name was even more so.

As Christians, it's important for us to know who our Father is and what His various names mean. By understanding the names of God, we can know more about His character and His attributes. When we understand more about God's character and attributes; we can understand more clearly who we really are too! We can truly understand our identity! God wants us to know who He truly is and He wants us to understand His nature. So let's look at the names of God and see what we can learn about our, Abba - Father, which translates "Daddy!"

  1. El Elyon: this name of God means "God most high" and indicates that God is the creator and possessor of heaven and earth. He is the "head honcho" and is in control of everything! There are no accidents where He is concerned. He orders all of our steps. 
  2. El Shaddai: this name of God indicates that God is Almighty! He is all powerful and all sufficient. (The Hebrew word for this name of God comes from the root word "shad" which means breast. Just like a child is fully satisfied at his mother's breast, so God is all we need for our sufficiency!)
  3. Yahweh/Jehovah: this name of God means "I AM THAT I AM." God is sovereign and never, ever changes. 
  4. Jehovah Jireh: this name of God means "the Lord who sees to it." He is our provider! He will see to it that all of our needs are met according to His plan for our lives.
  5. Jehovah Rophi: this name of God means "the Lord who heals you." The root word means to fix or mend. God wants to heal/mend us completely - mind, body, and spirit.
  6. Jehovah Nissi: this name of God means "our banner of victory." God wins our battles for us!
  7. Jehovah Shalom: this name of God comes from the Hebrew meaning completeness and finished. It implies a state of rest. God wants us to rest in Him and find our completeness in Him. 
  8. Jehovah Rohi: this name of God comes from the Hebrew word that translates "the Lord my Shepherd." God is our shepherd, the one who guides and protects us just like a sheep herder protects and guides his sheep.
  9. Immanuel: this name of God means "God with us." God is always with us. He never leaves us unattended. 
  10. Jehovah Shammah: this name of God means "the Lord is there." God is constantly present. His presence will be both in and on his people. 

Now that you know your Father's various names, let's take a look at some of His Attributes:

  • Omnipresent: God is everywhere at all times. No one can ever escape His presence! (reference 1 Kings 8:27, Psalm 139:7-10, Acts 17:28, and Matthew 18:20)
  • Omniscient: God knows everything past, present and future! Nothing surprises Him ever! reference Job 37:16, Isaiah 41:22-23)
  • Omnipotent: God is powerful and mighty! The word "omni" means all, and the word "potent" means powerful! So God is ALL POWERFUL! (reference Genesis 17:1, 28:3)
  • Immutable: God is unchangeable. For something to change, it has to change for better or worse doesn't it? Since God is perfect, there's no need for Him to change since He can't change to be better and He can't change to be worse, right? He doesn't change, ever! (reference James 1:17, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 1:12)
  • Holy: God is perfectly pure. He is separated from all evil and He is distinct from all others in that fact. He is entirely holy. (reference Exodus 3-5, Leviticus 19:2, Psalm 5:4-6)
  • Righteous: Everything God does is right. Everything He sets into motion is perfectly moral and just. Because of God's nature, His ways are always perfect. (reference Isaiah 45:21, Zephaniah 3:5, Romans 3:26)
  • Truth: God is truth. He cannot lie. (reference John 17:17, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18)
  • Loving: God's character is full of pure, unconditional love. (reference Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Jeremiah 31:3, John 3:16)
  • Good: Everything God does is good. He is morally excellent! (reference Genesis 1:31, Deuteronomy 8:16, Psalm 107:8)
Now do you see that you come from really good stock?! When someone says, "who's your Daddy," what are you going to say? Are you going to say that you are the daughter/son of the MOST HIGH GOD?  You should because it's true! Your Heavenly Father is ALL MIGHTY, ALL POWERFUL, ALL KNOWING, EVER PRESENT, ALL SUFFICIENT, LOVING AND KIND. He is all you will ever need. He is your PROTECTOR and your PROVIDER. He's the very best, most perfect Dad you could ever imagine! He never leaves you alone. He sees you clearly and knows your future. He always wants the best for you and His ways are always perfect.

Your identity is found in your Father. Never forget who you are...a child of the King!

Monday, May 19, 2014

A great lesson learned

This is a very personal, true story, but I want to share with you. Hopefully, it will help someone else. Back in 1991, I was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident where both bones in my right leg were crushed below the knee. Doctors thought they would have to amputate, but thankfully I had one orthopedic surgeon who wanted to try something else. He manipulated and aligned the bones in my leg under general anesthesia and then placed what I called "my satellite dish" on my leg. The contraption was really called an "external fixator"and through a variety of plates and long threaded screws (pins) positioned the bones correctly so they would be able to heal. I had 5 of those long, threaded screws or pins, as the medical team called them, drilled into my leg and attached to the fixator. 4 of the threaded pins were over a foot long as they had to pass through both bones in my leg and out the other side while still leaving enough length to thread through the fixator. The other threaded pin extended straight through the center of my fibula and outward (similar to a Unicorn's horn.) Needless to say, it was not a pretty site and was extremely painful. (Warning: Graphic picture follows, you may want to look away!)

After being discharged from the hospital, I went home to be with my four children, ages 15-2.  I did the best I could to manage caring for them and had to learn how to do things much differently now that I was temporarily handicapped. I found out rather quickly how hard it is to take care of little ones when you're confined to a wheelchair and the chair won't fit through doorways.

I'd always been a "clean freak" and was proud of the fact that I kept my house spotless at all times. Was I going to let this minor inconvenience thwart my cleaning record? No I wasn't. I was determined that my house would continue to be neat and tidy even though I couldn't fit the wheelchair through the doors of my home! It was a huge struggle and a job that would normally take a few minutes, often times took several hours. Still, I was proud that I was able to do it myself.

One day, God wanted to teach me a very valuable lesson on pride. You see, I never really thought that I was full of pride...oh, I knew I was proud of myself for being able to keep my home running smoothly and spotless with 4 small children but I didn't think there was anything wrong with that, afterall...I worked hard at it. But, in God's eyes, there was something very wrong. Before my accident, we had been attending a small, country church close to our home in Gainesville. The people there were very kind and loving. We had grown to be a part of their little community and enjoyed getting to know their hearts. When the church family heard about my automobile accident, they quickly made plans on how they could each help me. They talked and planned at the Wednesday night service. Some of the members decided they'd cook meals, others offered to chauffeur, each person wanted to do whatever they could to help out this divorced mother of 4. (Little did I know this until days later when I received a knock at my door.)

Friday morning, I heard a knock at my door. All of the children were at school except for the youngest one. As I opened the door, I was surprised to find an elderly lady from our church standing there in front of me. She said, "I know you've been hurt in the car wreck, honey, and I know you probably haven't been able to mop your I came to help you today. May I come in?" I was totally dumbfounded as I motioned for her to come inside. We sat and visited for a few minutes and she asked me about how I was feeling and then stood up and said, "now if you'll just tell me where your mop is, I'll get busy." I looked at her as if she were crazy and said in my most matter of fact voice, "I'm not going to let you mop my floor! I can do it later." (can you hear the pride that was welling up inside of me..."you're not going to mop my floor! How dare you! I keep my whole house spotless and you, you want to come in and mop my floor???") She looked at me and said (in the sweetest little old lady voice you've ever heard) while she humbly hung her head, "are you going to rob me of a blessing?" I couldn't believe my ears...rob her of a blessing? Whatever did she mean? The puzzled look on my face prompted her to respond, "you see, Bonnie, God told me to come to your house today. He told me to come mop your floor. "That's why I'm here. In my 87 years of age, I've learned to be obedient when God tells me to do something. Now you're going to rob me of the blessing that He had set aside just for me." As she said the last word, she walked toward the front door and slowly walked out.

I watched her drive away in her little car...this sweet, almost 90 year old, hunchbacked, woman who'd come to bless me that day. It didn't hit me until she drove out of the driveway that I'd crushed her spirit with my pride. I'd stolen a wonderful blessing that God had intended for her to receive as she was obedient to His command. Tears welled up in my eyes and I longed to call her back and apologize to her for my stupidity. I could feel God speaking to my heart, "oh, my child. You failed this test today. I sent this precious woman to teach you that pride does indeed go before a fall. You have been so full of yourself and your abilities to keep your family and your home in order since your wreck and you have not allowed others to help you even when their hearts were willing." I was so ashamed of myself and for the remainder of the day, I prayed and cried out to God asking for His forgiveness.

I've never forgotten that day and I never will. What a hard lesson that was for me to learn. Now when someone offers to do something to help me, I never refuse! I am so grateful and thankful. When I offer to do something for someone else and they refuse, I share this story with them. Have you ever robbed someone of a blessing by refusing to allow them to do something for you? Perhaps God spoke to their heart and gave them specific instructions on meeting a need for you. He honors obedience.

The next time someone wants to bless you, accept graciously and humbly. Remember that in Acts 20:35 that Jesus said Himself: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Sometimes we need to be "knocked down a few pegs," as my Daddy used to say, so we can understand the important things in life. Don't let pride cause you to stumble and especially don't let it rob someone of a blessing.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Grace for today

I'm a long range planner. I have been for years! When I come back from one vacation, I'm busy planning the next. Even in my daily life, I'm always thinking ahead...wondering what tomorrow will bring. Is it wrong to plan? No, I don't think so, but it is wrong to worry about what tomorrow holds.

This morning, as I was reading my Bible, I was studying a verse that I've read thousands of times before - Matthew 6:34. Listen to what that verse says in the Amplified version of the Bible: "So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble." As I pondered that verse, I was reminded that God only gives us enough grace to get through each day. This made me think back to an interview I'd heard with Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom. Ms. Ten Boom was speaking on how God had provided everything she and her sister had needed during their time of interment. Corrie used an example from her childhood to help others understand God's grace. She told of being a little girl and how excited she was to be going on a trip with her father. They were going to take a train and she'd never been on a train before. She kept bugging and bugging her father about the trip, and as she did, she would constantly ask him when he was going to give her the ticket for the train ride. As she told the story, she told the listeners that her father said, "When you and I go to Amsterdam--when do I give you your ticket?" She sniffed a few times before responding with "Why, just before we get on the train". Her father then went on, "Exactly. And our wise Father in Heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie." There is much wisdom in the snippet of conversation that you just read, isn't there? If you really think about it, God, in His wisdom, only gives us enough grace for one day...for this day. He doesn't give us grace to face the next few days or grace to face the next week or month or year...He only gives us enough for today.

There's another verse that may help you understand a little more clearly. It's found in the book of Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 16 and this is what it says, "Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]." Read that verse again and this time, ask a few questions:
1. To whom is that verse written?
2. What is promised in the verse?
3. Where can we find grace?
4. When do we receive grace?
5. Why does God give us grace?
6. How are we supposed to ask God for grace?
When you supply the answers to the questions above, you will see that God gives us mercy and grace because He wants to give it to us! He wants us to come before Him with courage and boldness asking for what we need. He wants us to feel comfortable enough to be open and raw with Him. Nothing we ask for is a surprise to Him...He knows everything, but in our asking, we learn to trust Him for His answer.

Tomorrow when you wake up, don't think about what's going to happen the next day or the next week. Focus on learning to live one day at a time. Trust that God is going to give you everything you need to get through THIS day. There's no reason to let worry and fear rob you of the joy set before you today. God's grace will carry you through whatever you face today...whether the day is smooth sailing or rough waters, He will be there.

I read a plaque in a craft store yesterday that applies to this devotional so well. Let me share it with you. This is what it said "I'm not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and love today." Even though I love to plan ahead, I'm going to work hard at learning to live one day at a time. I'm going to remember that God's grace is sufficient for THIS day and that He won't give me a surplus of grace to carry me through the next week, month or year. I have to trust Him to know exactly how much grace to give me for today. He knows me and He knows what this day holds for my life. As I trust in Him, I can rest knowing that He's got it all under control. That tells me that I can just sit back and enjoy the ride! Thank you Jesus, that this is going to be an awesome journey as I trust in your love and your grace to carry me through each day!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Father knows best

This morning, when you woke up, were you happy with the circumstances of your life? Wow, you say...that's a monumental question to ask...who wakes up thinking oh, my life is just wonderful...I'm happy with things exactly as they are...I wouldn't change a thing? No one I know wakes up that way! Most people wake up thinking about all the responsibilities and challenges they will face throughout the day. Many people are burdened by financial pressures, health issues, family problems or other weighty woes. As creatures of the human race, we are naturally predisposed to complain and worry. When we focus on our immediate circumstances, we become narrow minded and often can't see the forest for the trees! 

Some people see things through rose colored glasses and always look for the good in their circumstances...we call those people Optimists. Others tend to find the negative in their lives and we call them Pessimists. Most people tend to have a little of both in their lives and hold a good balance until something sends them teetering toward the other end of the spectrum. Do you ever feel like you're on an emotional seesaw?  Have you ever felt you were stuck in the quicksand of life? 

When we look directly at our circumstances it's easy to become overwhelmed because we realize that we can't always control our situation. Oh, we try to control our lives and many of us work very hard each day to maintain some semblance of order. Like many people, we find security in knowing that things are going according to plan; but in all actuality, we have no control over any aspect of our lives...we only think we do! 

God orders and plans our lives. He knows what will happen every second of every day. He knows what will happen even before it happens! Of course we make plans and we do our best to carry them out, but God orders our steps. He uses both the positive and the negative in our lives to mold and shape us into the one He desires us to be. He uses those things to teach us and cause us to be more like Him.

Charles Spurgeon says it best: "Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, God would have put you there. You are put by him in the most suitable place, and if you had had the picking of your lot half-an-hour afterwards, you would have come back and said, “Lord, choose for me, for I have not chosen the best after all.” You have heard, perhaps, the old fable in Aesop, of the men that complained to Jupiter, of their burdens, and the god in anger bade them every one get rid of his burden, and take the one he would like best. They all came and proposed to do so. There was a man who had a lame leg, and he thought he could do better if he had a blind eye; the man who had a blind eye thought he could do better if he had to bear poverty and not blindness, while the man who was poor thought poverty the worst of ills; he would not mind taking the sickness of the rich man if he could but have his riches. So they all made a change. But the fable saith that within an hour they were all back again, asking that they might have their own burdens, they found the original burden so much lighter than the one that was taken by their own selection. So would you find it. Then be content; you cannot better your lot. Take up your cross; you could not have a better trial than you have got; it is the best for you; it sifts you the most; it will do you the most good, and prove the most effective means of making you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God." 

 So tomorrow, when you wake up, no matter what your circumstances are at that very moment, know that God has purposely allowed you to be right where you are experiencing exactly what you are experiencing for a good reason. God's timing is always perfect. He knows what is best for us. He knows what we need and when we need it. He is the giver of good and perfect gifts! He is the lover of our souls! He wants only the best for us because He loves us with an everlasting love. Do you believe that God, our Heavenly Father, knows what's best for your life? He does! After all, He created you exactly as He designed you to be...complete and lacking nothing in His love. Aren't you glad that we have a Father who knows what's best for us? When we realize that we can look at things from His perspective, we see things in a whole new light. We can then learn to accept both the bad and the good things He allows into our lives knowing that He has a reason for them. Let Him teach you to see things from His point of view - you'll gain a whole new perspective on your life!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why bother blogging anyway???

Why bother blogging anyway? Those were the words that Satan placed in my mind this morning. I know it was him because I've learned to distinguish his voice over the years. He's the one who always tries to make me feel unworthy of God's love...the one who lies and deceives...the one who worms his way into my life through tiny cracks in my armor. Usually, I don't give much credence to what he says...usually I call him out and shut him down immediately...but today, I listened to that ugly whisper in my spirit and almost let it's gnarly roots take hold. The more and more I thought about it, I came across some pretty good reasons to continue blogging and here they are:

1. Jesus has done an undeniable work in my life
Just like the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well, my life has been radically changed by Jesus. Since my life has been so radically changed, I can't help but share that joy with those I come in contact with either in person or through my blog. My stories of faith are real and they need to be told. If even one of my stories helps someone else, then I know God receives the glory. Therefore, I will tell it.

 2. God calls all of us to go into all the world and preach the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:19). 
Who says that blogging can't be a ministry? Being raw and real is what most people want, isn't it? It doesn't tell us in the Bible that we have to be perfect Christians before we can go into the world and share Christ with others, all it says is that we are to "GO." If we had to be perfect, I would be the first to tell you that I am not perfect! Perhaps my writing will influence millions around the world or perhaps only one precious soul will be any event, it will be worth it in the long run! I've determined that since God made my mouth and has transformed my heart to long after Him then He can make the words I write speak to the heart of others. He wants me to tell my story, so I will tell it.

3. Through my life experiences of pain and suffering, I can help comfort others.
I am a firm believer that God allows pain into our lives for a reason. It may be so that we are able to learn and grow from it; or it may be to humble us. Often times, God allows pain and suffering to give us a heart of compassion for others. Learning to comfort others teaches me more about God's love. So if something I write eases the pain of another, then I know God is honored and I will keep writing.

I am not the most eloquent of writers. I hold no degrees in English Grammar or theory. I do speak from my heart and share what I've learned with humility and honesty. I've learned some hard lessons and I've been given an abundance of mercy and grace from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So today I will choose to squash those lies from the pit of hell that tell me I'm "not good enough"...the lies that scream "no one reads your blog anyway!" I will choose to keep on telling my story. I will choose to keep on writing and I will choose to trust God for all the rest. After all, He is my sufficiency and He supplies everything I need. (Philippians 4:19 "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.")

Friday, May 2, 2014

Drifting away

When I was growing up, summers were always my favorite time of the year because it meant that we'd be going to the beach! Every June or July, we'd load up the old station wagon and head to the beach. My brother, sister, and I were so excited we could hardly stand it! We loved playing in the sand building castles and chasing crabs, but we loved being in the water more than anything.

There's one summer that I'll never forget. After a long, hot ride to Florida, we finally arrived at our hotel. We unloaded the car and soon were donning our new bathing suits. We could hardly wait to get to the beach. Although my father was tired and would have loved to have spent the rest of the day inside the hotel room resting; he agreed to take us down to the beach. After driving a short distance, he slowly parked on the sand.

My brother, sister, and I had new inflatable rubber floats, a rare treat for us that year. My mother went down the beach to spread out a blanket and Daddy began the daunting task of blowing up each of our  floats. My sister was the first to receive her float. She was so proud of it and hugged it to her chest. My father began blowing up the next one and out of the corner of his eye, he watched my sister running toward the water. Our parents had warned us to wait until they were ready to get in the water with us, but a few minutes later,  my sister had somehow managed to get her float into the water and was sitting proudly on top of it. My brother and I were dumbfounded and jealous at the same time. We wanted Daddy to hurry and get our floats blown up so we could get in the water too.

I don't remember who saw it first, me or my brother, but one of us screamed that my sister was going out too far into the ocean. Although we didn't know it at the time, we learned later that she had been caught in an undertow. The current was whisking her rapidly out toward the horizon. The sheer fear that washed over my father's face is forever etched in my memory. In a split second, he was racing toward the water and diving in. My father did not know how to swim, but on that day, he dog paddled with lightning speed and managed to get to my sister's float just in the nick of time.

When they reached the shore, my sister was bawling and my father was as white as a sheet. The commotion had drawn quite a crowd of onlookers. As we all gathered around my sister, we were silent realizing that this day could have ended quite differently.

The undertow had taken my sister several hundred yards out into the water. To this day, I still don't know how my father got to her before she'd fallen off the float and drowned. It had to have been purely by the grace of God that she was saved especially since my father didn't know how to swim. Thinking about that day made me realize that we are often in a hurry to run ahead of God, choosing our own way, instead of listening to His loving guidance. We, in our selfish ways, want to do things when we want to do them and how we want to do them. Often times, we find ourselves thinking that everything is okay even when we've been warned not to do something; but then, we find ourselves floating out to sea with no rescue in sight. We are suddenly drifting toward disaster. We get caught in the undertows of life...the powerful undertow of lust or temptation, the relentless tug of materialism, the undertow of social acceptance...there are so many currents out there that can carry us in dangerous directions. There are undercurrents of false doctrines and all kinds of teachings that don't line up with the Word of God. These are some of the most dangerous of all.

Do you ever find yourself drifting? Do temptations often overwhelm you? When you find yourself aimlessly drifting, remember to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus! He is the anchor that will keep you tethered and safe from raging tides. Ephesians 4:14 says "We will no longer be babies in the faith. We won't be like ships tossed around by the waves. We won't be blown here and there by every new teaching. We won't be blown around by the cleverness and tricks of people who try to hide their evil plans." 

It's so important to know the truth of God's Word. It is a compass to guide you in every situation. Don't run ahead of God and try to do things in your own strength. Let Him navigate you through the rough and murky waters of life.  Don't be tempted to climb up on the float of your own wisdom for you may soon find yourself drifting out to sea.