Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When I Am Afraid

Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)  “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of great difficulty, you will not drown!”

Some people are mistaken to think that Christians will never have troubles in their life if they have enough faith.  Some of this is because of ministers who have preached and taught this kind of message.  The truth is, God promised he would help us through troubles, not completely avoid them.  There are some things in life that will come our way simply because of this fallen world where troubles reside.  We are born into bodies that are not created to live forever.  There is evil lurking around every corner, but, God says, “Do not be afraid!”  In fact, the words ‘fear not’ or ‘do not be afraid’ appear in the Bible 365 times – one for each day of the year, including leap year so that we will daily be reminded to put our trust in God! 

When I was a child, I was afraid of the unseen things in the dark.  Now that I am an adult, my fears are about bigger things in life – how to pay the bills, the safety of my kids and grandkids, growing old and becoming unable to care for myself, etc.  Many things that I was once afraid about have now come and gone – being financially stable, being a good parent and raising my children, losing my parents to death, my children growing up and leaving home, etc.  Then there are those things that present fear to us in the moment – my husband is late could he have had an accident, what will the economy do to our financial situation, my job has been terminated, my child is sick, I may have cancer, etc.  Fear IS the unseen thing lurking in the dark, waiting to jump out at any time.   Fear IS the dark shadow in the corner.  Fear IS the thing hiding under the bed, but God says, “Do not be afraid”!

When I was a child and I became afraid, I always cried out for my mother.  I’m sure that you did, too, or maybe it was your dad who you would call for, either way, we knew that parent would come to us and make everything better.  Why?  Because we were their child!  Their love for us would have caused them to sacrifice whatever necessary for our well being, and that’s why we trusted them.  They were bigger and wiser and we knew they would know what to do.  God says in this verse that the reason why we should not be afraid is because he has ransomed (redeemed, bought back, paid a big price for) us.  In other words, we’re his child AND he knows us by our name.  We’re not merely a product number from an assembly line, no, each one of us are to God just as important as either one of my three daughters are to me.  He is Father God!  

We can be assured that when we are afraid, we can call out for him, he will come to us and make everything better.  He will walk us through the dark times, through the sad times, through the hard times, through lack, through pain, through it all.   He is bigger and wiser and his love for us has already caused him to sacrifice whatever was necessary for our good, that’s why we can trust him.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

We Walk Together

I call,
You come,
We walk

I rest,
You caress,
Wipe away
My tears.

It's here,
In this place,
I can almost
See Your face.

I feel
Your eyes,
Full of love,
Time's erased.

I'm swept up in,
A moment when,
My heart begins,
To live again!

You fill me up,
Build me up,
Put me back
On solid ground.

Even though
I give you all,
You always give
Me more.

I go,
You wait,
We talk

It's near
In my heart,
When I almost
Saw Your face.

I must return,
My longing burns,
Your grace
Leads me back to the place,

Where we walk together.

Copyright 2012  Tracia Bussey

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Paint With Love

I Peter 4:8 (NIV)  “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

There’s an amazing product on the market to help cover unsightly blemishes on walls and surfaces.  This product is called Kilz.  If you have an interior or exterior wall or ceiling which has something on it that regular paint will not cover, this product will be your best help to resolve your issue.  The label reads, “Kilz is a fast drying, water-based multi-purpose primer, sealer and stain blocker that has a very mild odor and blocks out most light stains including water, rust, grease, ink, pencil and felt marker.”  This reminds me of the verse in I Peter where the writer is encouraging Christians to exhibit ‘deep’ love for one another, because love covers all kinds of sin.  Just like Kilz will cover all kinds of stains, love acts like a multi-purpose primer, sealer and stain blocker!

There’s no better biblical description of love than the scripture in Ephesians 13, fondly referred to as ‘the love chapter’.   The Message Bible gives a great understanding to the first three verses in this chapter and the New Living Translation gives the clearest understanding of verses 4-8.

Ephesians 13:1-3 (The Message)  “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.  So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

Ephesians 13:4-8 (New Living Translation)  “Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance…love will last forever!”

There is no greater love than the love that God the Father has shown to us, in that He gave His only Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for us, so that we can be made righteous and be saved.  The blood of His dear Son covers our sins.  Revelation 1:5 “…unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”  Likewise, when we have love for others, and the kind of love that is described in this scripture only comes with the empowerment of God Almighty, we show the goodness of God.  There is a time to speak the truth of God, but only with love as the motivation, otherwise it will not display God’s character.  We can’t lead people to repentance, only the goodness and kindness of God’s love draws people to God.

Romans 2:4 (God’s Word Translation)  “Do you have contempt for God, who is very kind to you, puts up with you, and deals patiently with you?  Don’t you realize that it is God’s kindness that is trying to lead you to him and change the way you think and act?”

We need to paint with Kilz when there are stains on our walls, and we need to love one another when there are stains on our sisters and brothers!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Exodus 14:19-29 (NIV) “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them.  The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.  Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other; so neither went near the other all night long.”

After many plagues and hardships had come upon Egypt through the stubbornness of the Pharoah not releasing the children of Israel, they were finally on their way to the promise land.  The Pharoah had gladly set the people free from their bondage when his first born son died from the death angel passing over Egypt, the last plague, however, after the Israelites left, the Pharoah became angry and gathered his army together to pursue Israel and punish them for his sorrow.   The Egyptian army came upon Israel as they were camped by the Red Sea.  I would say they were caught ‘between a rock and a hard place’!

The Israelites were afraid as they saw the Egyptian army drawing near.  There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, it appeared they would all be slaughtered in the dessert or at best, taken back to Egypt to live once more as slaves.  But God had a different plan!

The angel of the Lord came between the Israelites and the Egyptian army, causing a cloud to remain there all night.  This cloud caused darkness to the Egyptians but gave light to the Israelites.  God instructed Moses to hold out his staff to the water and God parted the sea, causing the waters to roll back and make a path for the people to cross on dry ground.  They had light from the cloud all night so they could travel to the other side of the sea.  After they had arrived on the other shore, God allowed the cloud to lift and Pharoah with his army charged after the Israelites.  God released the waters upon the Egyptian army, including the Pharoah, and they were all drowned.  The Israelites were saved and free to continue their journey to the land of Canaan, never to be pursued by the Egyptians again.

There are times when we are ‘between a rock and a hard place’ in life.  Times when there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from troubles.  Times when the enemy and all of his demons are charging us, planning to slaughter us or take us captive as slaves, times when it is an impossible situation with no visible solution.  But God has another plan!

The same cloud that will darken the enemy’s sight will give us light.  The same waters that are parted for us to escape will crush our attackers.  God is both beautiful and terrible.  It just depends on which side of the cloud you are on!

We should remember that there’s never anything too hard for God.  Regardless of what our ‘rock’ or our ‘hard place’ may be, God has another plan!

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Did Jesus Say?

Colossians 3:16 – 17 (NIV) “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise.  Use his words to teach and counsel each other.  Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.  And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus.”

Many years ago, a popular saying among Christians was,  ”What Would Jesus Do?”  This little question was shortened to WWJD and put on bracelets, t-shirts, hats, buttons and other items with the intent of reminding us to be a representative of Jesus in our actions and words.  There’s no doubt that it helped Christians to rethink some things and maybe even redo something that was not right, but mere letters on a bracelet are a short lived solution to being a representative of Jesus Christ. 

Here, Paul encourages us to first, have the words of Jesus living in our inner most being, our heart.  This would be more than just wearing a popular acronym on our wrist, it would be allowing the Word of God to be our way of life.  Notice he says also that those words will make us wise, or in other words, will help us make wise choices.  There are times when we may need a bracelet with the letters WDJS on it (What Did Jesus Say?) before we made certain decisions and choices, so that we would stop, pray and listen to Him before we acted.

“Use his words to teach and counsel each other”.  Too often, we offer advice to others that is simply our opinions, when our opinions will never have the power to help someone as much as the words of Jesus, especially when a friend or coworker is facing a serious dilemma in life.  Jesus was always loaded with just the right thing to say when he encountered someone who was in a desperate situation.  Of course, it was not because he was so smart, but because he was always led by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told his disciples that it was expedient for him to go to the Father, so that the Holy Spirit could come.  The same Holy Spirit that guided Jesus, is in every Christian, to the measure that we yield to him and allow him to direct and guide our lives.  He will always show us truth and lead us in the paths of righteousness.  He will give us the words to say when the time is needed and will reveal to us when that time is right.  Luke 12:12 (NIV)  “for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”  John 16:13 (NIV) “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

“Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”  That reminds me of a little song we used to sing in the early days of our Christian walk.  A close minister friend of ours calls these types of songs “Kitchen Choruses” since we would gather in each other’s homes and study the Bible together, many times at the kitchen table, and sing choruses to the Lord.  This one goes like this…
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me
Spring up, oh well, within my soul
Spring up, oh well, and make me whole
Spring up, oh well, and give to me
That life, abundantly.

When we have a song in our heart that is bubbling out from a well of thanksgiving to God, we seem to soar over every bump and pot hole in life’s road.  There’s something extremely powerful about that river of life that only comes from God. 

So to sum up this verse…
Live like Jesus, with a song of praise & thanksgiving flowing from our hearts, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in everything we say and do, and benefit from wisdom that only comes from God.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sweet Peace

John 14:27 (NIV) “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

When Jesus was telling this statement to his disciples, it was not long before the temple guards came to arrest him, just prior to his trial and crucifixion.  He was preparing them for what would soon happen.  I’m sure the full meaning of all he was saying was not weighing in on them, not until everything began unfolding before their eyes.  They have walked with Jesus, shared and talked with Jesus, been taught and discipled by Jesus for three years.  They all loved him dearly, all except Judas.  I wonder if Judas had already decided in his heart that he would betray Jesus at this point.  He may have already made a deal with the high priests and may already be counting his money in his head as Jesus spoke these words.  Knowing the betrayal to come, Jesus still made this promise – I do not give as the world gives, I give you my peace!

How does the world give?  The world gives only when it benefits the giver – “I’ll scratch your back if you will scratch mine”.  The world gives until the receiver disappoints in some way, then the world takes it back.   The world gives only to its favorites.  The world gives only to the popular.  The world gives only so much, never giving all.   Jesus gave it all.  Only Jesus gave up his crown in heaven to be born on earth in a lowly manger.  Only Jesus gave all of his love, mercy and grace to any and all who would receive.  Only Jesus gave his life through a cruel death.  Only Jesus!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  Jesus is still telling his disciples this today.  If you have Jesus in your heart, if you serve him, if you love him, if you are a Christian, he is speaking to you.  Philippians 4:7 (NASB) “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  The peace that Jesus gives to us is a supernatural peace, it passes our natural understanding.  This peace guards our hearts and our minds.  If there’s ever been a time that mankind needs strong hearts and sound minds it is today!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Where Eagles Fly

Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)  “But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength.  They will fly high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  The will walk and not faint.”

The kind of waiting that is spoken of in this scripture means, “confident expectation”.  It would be similar to the waiting that’s done in a hospital when a baby is being born.  There’s a knowing that a new life, a bundle of blessing, is about to make an arrival.  There is an abundance of ‘confident expectation’ that something good is about to happen! 

It is important to stay focused on ‘who’ God is and in ‘what’ He is doing.  Our confidence should be founded in His character – He is good, He is just, He is faithful, He is merciful, He is wise, He is true to His Word, He is loving, understanding and always on time.  Our ‘confident expectations’ should rest upon knowing and trusting God’s principles, promises, purposes and power will never fail.

I’m convinced the strength spoken of in Isaiah 40:31 is supernatural spiritual strength.  We’re promised that our ‘confident expectation’ will reward us with new strength, and then that strength is related to the eagle’s power to soar high in the sky without tiring.

Why did God use the eagle to relate this promise to us?  Because the eagle is such an amazing creature!  Did you know the strike of a Bald Eagle’s talon is so powerful that its force is twice that of a rifle bullet?  Did you know the term “eagle eye” comes from the fact that eagles can see an object at a distance up to one and a half miles away?  Did you know eagles can dive at 100 miles per hour and pound for pound, an eagle’s wing is stronger than the wing of an airplane?  Of course God knows how fantastic eagles are, He created them!

It is exciting to see an eagle in action in its natural habitat.  We have recently had several sightings of Bald Eagles at the lake where we fish.  I have seen them fly higher and higher into the sky until they become a tiny object circling and gliding overhead, their white tails and heads reflecting the sunlight.  I have watched them dive to the water for fish and perch proudly in the tallest trees.  Their image has been used by people groups throughout history as an identity of strength, stamina and power.  Our own United States of America’s national symbol is the Bald Eagle!

When we have ‘confident expectation’ in our God, who is good in character and never fails in His promises, we gain strength to rise above the things on this earth that would normally hold us down.  Supernaturally, we can soar higher, see further, strike stronger, move faster, live bolder and stand longer.  He is the wind beneath our wings!