Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't Let Satan Pull You Under

Hello All,

I hope you had a Very Merry Christmas!!! I know I did!

I must share a few personal things before I tell you what I feel God wants me to share. I am so sorry it has been SO long since I have blogged. It’s been almost 2 months, and I must say, I have really missed it. I hope you have missed me. J Every time I write I find God teaching me so many valuable lessons and principles.

As I have told you before, this has been a difficult Fall. I have dealt with food poisoning that seemed to upset my digestive system severely. Ever since the bout with food poisoning, I have had pain in my stomach. My precious doctor has run every blood test imaginable and a CT scan, and found nothing. Most of the time I am weaker than usual. This has put a real strain on Cecil, my patient husband. He is so loving and understanding, but he is really tired of me not feeling well, and who can blame him.

Then about 2 weeks ago I went back to the doctor to discuss more options for stomach treatment etc., and we discovered that my blood pressure was up. After tracking it for a few days he put me on bp medication. It has taken some adjustment but we have found a dose that works. Which has me feeling some better too.

Now with all the preparations for Christmas I simply wore myself out and I am sitting here right now exhausted and aching all over.

Please understand I am not complaining. I’m telling you these things for 2 reasons. First, to ask you all to keep me in your prayers, that I may be able to do whatever God wants me to do including this blog, in spite of the physical limitations. Second, to share that even though these are physical aliments, I believe our battle is not a physical battle. It is a spiritual battle. With each of these things Satan used them to affect my witness as a Christian. That is what I want to share with you today.

Ephesians 6:12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (KJV)

As all these things have been going on God has shown me that it is not always the ailments that I’m struggling against, but Satan. Let me explain. I can feel good all week, but when I wake up on Sunday morning, inevitably I will be sick at my stomach or achy or have a headache or something. I have found that if I give in to that and stay home from church, I will feel bad all day. However, if I make myself get around, I feel better and God gives me a spiritual boost.

I had a pastor many years ago who used to say “If God allowed us to pull back the veil and reveal what is going on in the spiritual world, we would be amazed. There is a major spiritual battle going on all around us, between God’s angels and Satan’s demons.” I don’t know about you, but that helps me keep in perspective the true battle over me that is constantly going on.

During this time I have watched other people struggle with their own spiritual battles. A friend and I have talked about how Satan tries to prevent her from making it to Bible Study each week. I see my children as Satan is putting barriers up in their lives to keep them out of church or trying to draw them away from God. Satan will use anything he can to keep our eyes off Jesus.

Matthew 14:28-33
 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (ESV)
Just like Peter, we get into trouble when we take our eyes off Jesus. As long as our focus is our Savior then we are fine, but once we begin to worry about what is going on around us:  how am I going to pay the bills, how will I find a job, when will I get well, etc., that is when Sat can grab ahold of our foot and pull us under the water. Until we get our focus back on Jesus and He pulls us back up out of the water! That is when we realize HE IS IN CONTROL OF ALL THINGS!
May you remember that Satan is constantly battling for your attention, so keeping your eyes on Jesus can keep you out of many difficult situations.
Living in Grace,

Monday, November 7, 2011

This Was Not What I Had In Mind

Isaiah 55:8 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.(ESV)

Does it bother you when your plans get interrupted? I’m not talking delayed. I’m talking, postponed, changed or even cancelled, over and over and over again, due to circumstances totally beyond your control. Let me tell you it bugs me big-time! Ya see, I’m a planner. Ask my family or anyone who has known me for any length of time. I like to have everything planned almost down to the minute. The things I’m talking about though, I think would bother anyone. Let me just tell you what I mean.

Even though I’m not working right now, I have a schedule I keep to each week. I volunteer, attend a Bible study, meet some friends for sip ‘n sister time (coffee and fellowship) and I go to counseling. All of these things help keep me grounded and in touch with good Christian influences. They are weekly events that I try not to miss, but if I get sick or need to go out of town, I have the freedom to do so. As I have mentioned, I did get sick about 2 weeks ago, unfortunately I am still fighting whatever this is. The doctor is running tests and we are waiting on the results. Due to this illness, I haven’t been able to do my volunteer work in 2 weeks. I am really missing it. One week I missed Bible study. I miss that too. Well, this week I was supposed to go out of town with my mom and sister, but I am not well enough to do that. As you can see all of my plans have been totally messed up!!! I am not happy about it either.

There have been a few times over the past 2-2 ½ weeks that I have gotten frustrated and dare I say, even angry, that the things I wanted to do were NOT happening! Well, God began reminding me of the verse I placed at the beginning of this…that my ways are not His ways…So what IS He saying to me?

Right now, I believe He is telling me to rest in Him, that my body is physically weary, and He literally wants me to rest. While I physically rest, He wants me to lean on Him for ALL my strength. He will renew my strength in His time and I will be better and stronger if I will just trust Him.

Mark 6:30-32 30The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
 32So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.(NIV)

This was just before they fed the five thousand. Jesus knew that the apostles were tired and hungry. He knew they needed to rest.

Isaiah 40:31 31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Once I rest and I WAIT on God THEN, He can renew my strength! So do you need to rest too? If not now, think about it the next time your plans don’t work out the way you think they ought to.

Living in Grace,

Hey friends will you do me a favor, I’m posting a new favorite website. Check it out. Also I’ll be giving you a little information about it on “Hitting the High Notes” page. Take a look!!! This might be something very useful for your upcoming Holiday cooking! Do I have you tempted? ;) I hope so.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I Find Redemption in the Oddest Places

There is no doubt that I watch WAAAY too much TV, or that movies have played too large a roll in my life and in the lives of my children. In fact at family gatherings, if someone errantly says “You lookin’ at me?” We better be ready for Hunter to follow up with “You rub my lamp?” and proceed to go into the entire genie monologue from Aladdin. Finally ending with “Weeeeeeeee’re outa here!” Unfortunately, I could give MANY more examples.

All my inadequacies aside, over the past month or so I cannot help but see that if we will let God use it, He can use ANYTHING, even a reality show, to give us a picture of His Salvation! 

Whether you have ever watched the show SURVIVOR or not, I’m sure you know the premise. Eighteen people living in the wilderness with each other for up to 39 days. During which time, they strategize, talk, manipulate, finagle, lie, cheat, schmoose, charm or whatever else it takes to win a million dollars for the one man or woman left standing (hopefully themselves). It doesn’t matter to me what you think of the show or what you think of me for indulging in it. I simply want to use it as an example. So I ask that no matter your opinion of either one please stick with me on this one. I DO have a spiritual application to make.

Normally a tribe (team) that looses a challenge goes to tribal council and votes off the weakest or most disliked person. This sends them to “Redemption Island” where they dual the person who is already there. The looser leaves the game permanently the winner stays on “Redemption Island”. Eventually, the last man on “Redemption Island” will get to return to the game of survivor.  Watch the following clip:

Ozzy has decided to sacrifice himself for his tribe. Now please take this in the most general and generic sense as it is given. Remember, these guys are playing for 1 million dollars and THAT is what is on THEIR MINDS!

REDEMPTION: by definition-purchase back something that is lost, by the payment of a ransom (Bible Gateway Dictionaries, 2010).

For the purpose of the game SURVIVOR, the idea of redemption is that the person who has been voted off can now “redeem” himself/herself by winning dual(s) against others who have been voted off. He/She will then show that he/she is worthy of returning to the game to fight for a place at the end to possibly win the money. However, when Ozzy “sacrificed” himself he put a new spin on things. Ozzy has now said to the rest of his tribe (team), “I am willing to risk my ‘life’ for you as a team in order to ‘save’ us all from certain doom.” This is where I went OH MY GOODNESS! This guy has NO idea he has just given me a perfect example of what Jesus did for ME!!!

If you don’t see it let me tell you! I’M LOVING THIS!!!!

I went up to Jesus and said, “Jesus, look at me I have all this sin in my life, it is horrible and black and keeps me separated from God! I want to have a relationship with God, but God says he can’t even LOOK at sin. What can I do?”

Jesus says, “Angie, you can’t do anything! Nothing you will EVER do will be good enough. The only way you can pay for your sins is by eternal death and separation from God.”

“Then who will pay for my sins, so I can have a relationship with God?”

“I already have. Because I was 100% God and 100% man I did! I was a man, who never sinned, I lived a perfect life, when I died on the cross I paid for your sins. All the sins that you have committed, or will ever commit were put on me on while I was on the cross. Then when I rose the 3rd day I defeated sin and death! Now I sit at God’s right hand. All you have to do is accept the gift of redemption that I am offering you.”

Ozzy (though NOTHING like Jesus) offered to take the place of the other tribe members so they did not have to be voted off. The others took the offer. Jesus has already taken your place will you accept Him into your heart, believe that He is your redemption and make Him Lord of your life?

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Living in Grace,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Constant Companion

Hello friends! I need to share a couple things before I get into this week’s lesson/sharing or whatever we call it. Again I want to apologize for not doing this in a timely manner. Writing this every week is good for me, whether you get anything out of it or not. Here’s the big thing, I think this will help us all. Instead of posting on Thursday’s, I will begin this week by posting on Monday’s from now on. I hope we can all adjust to the new schedule. Maybe it will help us all get our week off to a good start.

Over the past several weeks, even months, there have been so many things happening in my life and in the lives of people around me, good and bad alike. Our daughter and her friends graduated high school, two children have moved out to go to college, friends have struggled with major health issues, new friends have been made through extraordinary circumstances like an accident at a cement plant, where men should have died yet God spared them, babies have been born, and I could go on and on. In each and every event there was one constant that was God. Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Isn’t it wonderful to know that no matter what happens in our lives Jesus ALWAYS remains the same.

I want to share something that reminds me of Jesus’ constantness (don’t know if that’s a word, but I like it so I’ll use it haha). That is my precious husband. He is a definite constant in my life! Sure we have our ups and downs, like all couples, but I know every night he will be by my side when I go to sleep and when I wake up he will be next to me. What a comfort! What a wonderful example of God’s love for me! Always there when I hurt, when I’m happy, when I’m moody, when I’m grouchy, when I’m fun-loving, no matter what they are both by my side! I love my God and Savior! He gave his life for me! Do I fully grasp how unworthy I am for this? I love my husband and thank God for him!

I’m not quite sure what has compelled (maybe possessed is a better word) me to do this, but I feel I should share a paper with you all. This was an assignment for an English class I took about 2 years ago. I had to write a narrative or a story. This tells of the love I have for my precious husband. I hope you enjoy it.  May God Bless You this week!

He was the Only One in the Room
       At eleven-years-old I knew who I was going to marry.  I know it sounds crazy, but my heart knew that the twelve-year-old boy I attended church with was the love of my life. It would take us four years before we would begin to date, and almost another four before I would actually get to marry him. When my wedding day arrived, it was the day I had dreamed about ever since I was a little girl. Nothing was going to ruin it for me.
       As I stood just out of sight of my awaiting groom, my heart was about to jump out of my chest. I was a very conscientious bride, very involved in my own wedding. At first I was preoccupied with making sure everyone else did their jobs properly. Watching the candle lighters light the candles.  I made sure the music ran smoothly, the ushers got the grandmothers and the mothers seated. I watched the little flower girl walk down the isle on cue. I even kept an eye on the bridesmaids as they made their way to their spot. Finally it was my turn, but the time between the maid of honor and the bridal march seem to take a lifetime. As my daddy and I walked into place, and stood waiting for our cue, I must have been shaking furiously. My daddy turned to me and said, “Are you going to be ok?”  I looked back at him with a smile on my face and replied, “Yes!”  When my eyes met the eyes of my awaiting groom he became the only one in the room.
       Walking down the isle toward the front of the sanctuary, it was then my destiny changed. Holding my daddy’s arms I sensed I was no longer daddy’s little girl, I was becoming Cecil’s wife. We reached the alter, and the pastor asked the standard question on giving the bride away. Being a little non-traditional, we chose to have both families answer that question. Once that formality was out of the way, we had decided to have the flower girl and ring bearer be seated with their families. This decision was due to the fact that the ring bearer was only 2 1/2 years old. As my daddy reached out to take the ring bearer, who happened to be my little brother, back to his seat, my brother screamed, “I want my Cecil!”  With a little encouragement, he followed my daddy and sat down with the family so the ceremony could continue.
       As the wedding party moved into place, the groom and I took our position in front of the pastor, hand in hand. The wedding vows were exchanged through shaky voices and tearful eyes. Then came my turn to quote a scripture from the book of Ruth. I think this was the hardest part of the ceremony for me. By this point I was totally enthralled in the euphoria of being a bride and the anticipation of being the wife of my long time boyfriend. Because of this mindset I was overcome with emotion and filled with tears. So as I began my recitation my voice was barely audible, and I sounded like a scared little girl. It was so important to speak those words from Ruth 1:16 “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:” (King James Bible).  I wanted Cecil and the audience to know I had no intention of ever leaving, and my commitment was real.  Once that was done, we moved on to exchanging rings. As we placed the rings on each other’s fingers I seemed to be determined to place my groom’s ring on his right hand. He pulled his right hand out of my grasp, and offered his left hand to me to place the ring on his ring finger.  Fortunately, that did not prevent the pastor from pronouncing us man and wife.
       Finally, my little girl dream of marrying my childhood friend had come true.  All the waiting, all the anxiety was over, I was now the wife of Cecil Pettijohn. The wonderful wedding I had spent months planning was over with very few hitches. Looking back over the past 26 years there are still times when life gets chaotic and things seem out of control but just one word from my loving husband and he becomes the only one in the room.

Now that you’ve read my love story, I need to think about something. When I think about Jesus and the sacrifice He made for me, do I feel like I felt the day I got married? When I go to worship is Jesus the only one in the room? Can I resist taking my eyes off of Him? Do I have an overwhelming desire to please Him? I am excited at the prospect of seeing Him one day? Do I want to know more about Him?
Living in Grace,

Friday, September 30, 2011

Do You See What God Provides?

There are times I share with you the difficult things in life. I do this because God has told us that we will have suffering in this earthly life.
1 Peter 4:12-16 12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (ESV)
I also share those tough times to give you hope. Hope that God is with you through the difficult times, and hope that this life on earth is temporary. When I mention these things it reminds us we are not alone in our suffering, Jesus endured much more suffering than we will EVER know, and we can support one another through our sufferings. It’s nice to have a friend by your side when life seems overwhelming.

However, today I want us to look at the contrast of those tough things we go through, up against the way God takes care of us. Let’s just look at few verses where He promised He would provide for us.

Phillipians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

Matthew 6:30-32 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (ESV)

Luke 12:6-7 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (ESV)

Luke 12:22-23 22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. (NIV)

How many of us have truly gone without the things we need? Before you answer, think about it. Have you ever gotten to the point that you have had NOTHING to wear (ladies, I’m not talking about you gained a couple of pounds and your favorite jeans feel uncomfortable, or you’re tired of wearing the same things over and over and over. I understand.), the clothes on your back are ALL you have?  Have you ever been without food for a day (not because you chose too), or two, or three, because you didn’t have enough money to feed yourself? Have you ever had to sleep on the streets, in your car, or in a shelter because you didn’t have a home? I have to say NO to ALL 3 of these questions because my God is faithful and has ALWAYS provided for my NEEDS!!

He even provides for my wants. I would like to share 3 stories of how God has intervened on behalf of my family, to provide for us in miraculous ways, just in the past two or three months. Before I even start I want you to know, I give Him all the praise and glory for what happened in each incident! I hope these encourage you!

God’s House
This past summer our younger son, Colton, was preparing to transfer from a community college to the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. He had all paperwork completed. He had been accepted months prior.  He had even registered for all of his fall classes and had his schedule. The company he had been working for in Midlothian had worked out a transfer to Denton, so he already had a job. God was working everything out. We just had one problem, where was he going to live? His financial aid covered his tuition but not housing. There was no way he could work enough hours to pay rent on an apartment and still get his school work done. We simply had no idea what we were going to do, we just kept praying that God would provide something. Classes were to begin in about 3 weeks, when a dear family friend who had been having health issues was admitted ICU. So our family went to see him. Because of schedules we all saw him at different times. Cecil and I saw him early in the day. We casually talked about getting Colton ready for school. Later Colton visited him and the man asked if Colton was ready to go to UNT. Colton said yes, but that he was very stressed because he didn’t have a place to live. The friend then told Colton that a family member lives close to UNT and has a cottage behind their house that they might be willing to rent it to him while he attends UNT. Within 2 weeks Colton and his best friend moved in. It is perfect! The rent and utilities are just what college students can afford. We know that God provided this! He is so good!

The Apple Miracle
For several months I have been having some issues with my computer that I have just dealt with. I am an Apple person! So to get it fixed I had to take it to the Apple store. I get it there and begin to tell the Genius, Bryan, what the problem is, “The screen only works when it the laptop is open about 4-5 inches. It has gradually gotten worse. At first the screen would go off when it was opened to about 90o. As I would close it, the screen would come back on. Now I can only open it like 4 or 5 inches. I can’t work with it like this.” So Bryan begins to look at it. He realizes that the battery doesn’t work and I have to keep it plugged in. There is also a USB port that is broken. I say, “Bryan, I don’t care about getting those things fixed, I can deal with those things. I just need the screen to work.” I’m talking to him about how I know I can’t afford to get the whole computer fixed, that I’m just limping this one along until I can afford a new one. We talked about how much repairs like this usually cost and if he could get it fixed for less, how much could I pay. Strange question, I’m thinking. I call and talk with Cecil about it. When I get off the phone, Bryan pulls me over away from the rest of the people and says I got approval to fix all the problems on your computer for half what it would normally cost. At that point I begin to cry. He then tells me he is throwing in a battery for free. All I could say was thank you and Bryan you are a Godsend! When I returned to pick up my computer I have to tell you I was in shock. They did much more than I ever realized they were going to do. It looks absolutely brand new! So I waited for Bryan to finish with a customer. He came over, I again thanked him, this time I let him know I felt God had directed him to do this for me. I hugged him and left. I pray that God will continue to use Bryan if he is a Christian. If he is not, I pray God has allowed me to plant a seed.

Insurance Does a Good Thing
Last week I had to take Colton to the doctor. I step up to the counter to check in. I get my checkbook out and get ready to fill it out when the lady behind the counter tells me to wait. She says, “There is a credit on the account. Let me make sure it is a real credit.” So I wait…then she says, “It’s a real credit.” She explains that the insurance company paid for the physical Colton had a month ago. Of course, at that time I paid the co-pay.  So she applies it to that visit. Once again God’s timing is perfect!

These are just 3 examples of the way God works in our lives each and every day. The main thing is we have to be aware of what He is doing. Recognize that God is at work, performing miracles in our lives everyday.

Now I’m going to ask you for a favor. I would like you to think of a time when God intervened on your behalf, and provided for you when there was a need. Please leave a comment here to share with everyone or send me an email. I can’t wait to read your stories!

Living in Grace,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Laboring for Heaven

I know we all wonder why we endure certain hurts and sufferings. I know I have. Specifically I have wondered why I have lost so many special people who are close to me. I have mentioned before that from a young age I have dealt with death. Maybe that is why this question comes up so often for me. I won’t go through all the deaths I’ve been through, but I feel you need to know some that have made the biggest impact on me. When I was 14 a young man in our church youth group was killed in a car accident. He and I were very good friends. He was 18 and only a month from graduating High School. This was very difficult on a 14-year-old girl, and a small youth group who had a hard time grasping why God would take such a young man. By the time I was 20 I had only one grandparent left. When I was in my early thirties God took her home. Not long after that he took home my sister’s husband who was only 33. Then, when I 43 my precious daddy met Jesus. I have to admit this was the hardest loss I have ever endured. I miss my daddy every day! To this day, almost 3 years later, I don’t understand why God took him when He did. What I do know is I serve a sovereign God and He has a purpose for all He does and I can trust HIM. So I will. As I learn and grow in His word He teaches me. This week He has given me a new perspective on the question, “Why have I lost so many special people close to me?”

Recently I’ve been learning, and trying to put into practice that EVERYTHING is to Glorify God. Ephesians 1:12 “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” This means I am to be “to the praise of his glory”, me, my life, always, no matter the circumstances. The Christian life is NOT about circumstances it’s about Jesus! Living a life glorifying Him!

I heard a quote from author Sam Storms that really struck me, that as I live this life I should “Labor to be much acquainted with heaven.” Did you catch that, “Labor”, what comes to mind when you think of the word labor? Let’s get real, I think of 2 things:

  1 Working really, really hard on something, like construction workers
     out in the Texas heat of 110o
  2   A woman about to give birth to a baby

Now I could paint a pretty vivid picture of either one of those scenarios, but I won’t, because I think you get the idea. He is talking about working hard, REALLY hard. Sam Storms is suggesting that we, as Christians should search out scriptures and get ourselves VERY familiar with Heaven. Have you done that? Have I done that? I don’t know what your answer is, but I know that mine is no.

We’ve all heard the quote by Benjamin Franklin, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes." If you’re a Christian, you know this verse,
Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” No matter what else occurs in life, we all know we are going to die. Benjamin Franklin knew it, the author of Hebrews knew it and you and I know it today. Knowing it about ourselves and accepting it about our loved ones sometimes are two very different things. Am I right? I know that one day I will die and go to Heaven, I find a certain peace in that. However, the thought of my husband, daughter, son, mom, sister, brother or others close to me, preceding me in going to Heaven, makes me a bit uneasy. Should it? NO! I should find just as much peace in knowing they will be with my Savior, as I find in knowing, I will be with my Savior!

So what is wrong with me? I believe I have not set my affections on things above. Colossians 3:1&2  1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Of course this is talking about the things of God. Now back to what I mentioned earlier about laboring to get ourselves acquainted with Heaven. What is Heaven? Jesus’ home. As we get to know Jesus more and more, and draw closer to him that is how we get to know Heaven. Not by learning about the streets of Gold and the gates of pearl. Because once we see Jesus all those THINGS, and YES they are just THINGS, will pale by comparison!!!

Now you may be saying, “How has this given you a new perspective on why you have lost so many close to you?” Well when I heard that quote from Sam Storms I couldn’t help but think about those who have gone on before me. I don’t know about you but anytime anyone mentions Heaven, my first thought goes to those who are already there. Honestly, that’s pretty sad. My Lord and Savior, the one who gave His life for me, the one who is to be my number 1 priority is there. Yet all I can think of is my daddy, my brother-in-law, my grandparents and others. That is when God reminded me of Philippians 1:20-22 “20as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.” So I am working on keeping my perspective of losing the ones I love as it would be with me, Living means living a life for Christ, Dying means gaining eternity with HIM! Their lives can continue to be witness for Christ even after death by the life they lived for Christ and by where they are now worshiping our Savior forever! They are now my example!

Living in Grace,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Righteousness Isn't That Bad...Is It?

Hello Friends! I am so sorry it’s been so long. For a couple of weeks I had a really hard time adjusting to my children being gone, then for a week I was sick and last week my computer was sick. Thank goodness the Apple repairmen were able to get her running like new! With God’s help I will get back on the right track, with the blog and several other things in my life.

So…Finally, let’s finish Luke 15. I know you have been waiting to see what God has in store for us. So am I…time to get started.

Please re-read Luke 15 to help refresh your memory.
We will be focusing on Luke 15:25-32

I have to admit, I really wish Jesus would have stopped with verse 24. I think that would have made a perfectly happy ending to the parable. That would have worked out fine had Jesus been speaking to a crowd filled with only tax collectors and sinners. Take a look back at verse 2 “And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled,”(ESV) from this verse it is obvious there is also a group of Pharisees and scribes listening. Actually, most of the time there was a group of Pharisees following and listening to Jesus. Now understand, they were not there to learn from Him, they were there to find fault in His teaching, but Jesus, being God in the flesh, always took advantage of a teachable moment. I love that! He could have stopped the parable with the younger son’s return to the father, the restored relationship between the two and the huge celebration, which all is a picture of a rebellious person seeing their need for God’s grace, through His sacrifice of His son Jesus on the cross, that person’s confession of sins before God and God forgiving those sins and welcoming him or her into His arms. Then He rejoices when that one has come home! Because our Gracious God doesn’t want anyone to leave this earth without a relationship with Him, as
2 Peter 3:9 says ”The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”(NIV) He continues on with the parable.

At this point Jesus moves His focus from the tax collectors and sinners in the crowd to the Pharisees and Scribes. If you will remember from earlier (Yes…Much earlier, dig waaay back in your memory, or flip back to a previous blog), we differentiated between the two groups by saying the tax collectors and sinners were the blatant sinners, and the Pharisees and Scribes were the moral people of the day. They were hiding their sins behind their good works. Throughout this study Rodney gave the two groups interesting titles, Tax Collectors and Sinners-Too Bad For God’s Grace, Scribes and Pharisees-Too Good For God’s Grace. Here is an interesting thought. They both feel they are beyond grace. The Pharisees have this attitude of self-righteousness. They feel as though they are the only ones that are “religious”. They follow the law, they go to the temple, they worship God, they know the Bible….What? Ok, so maybe they know the law and what the prophets have taught.

In all the years I have been taught the story of the Prodigal Son, I have never paid a lot of attention to the older brother. Except for the fact that he threw a fit over the party when the younger brother came home. Honestly, I thought, “Get over it, can’t you be happy your brother came home? Now move on.” That was the end of it…Until Now. Now I’m realizing the true feelings, motives, and implications of a heart like the older brother. Let me tell you, it’s not a good thing.

Let’s start by defining Self-Righteousness-Relating to God based on my performance for God. It’s thinking I can earn God’s blessing through good behavior, earning His Grace by my good living, that I can be right with God because of my righteousness, and that God’s mercy is dependent on my morality.

If you have spent any time in church, you will reject that you think or believe that. I know you will, because I do. Come on, let’s get real with ourselves. Is that how we live? We know that we are saved by grace, but we live as though we must stay saved by works. God is continually teaching me that His grace didn’t stop at salvation. Right now one of the things I am working on is changing my thinking from common thoughts like: “God helps those who help themselves.” to, God helps those who know they are helpless without Him! You may not even realize it, but that first thought is self-righteousness. This is what God says about my righteousness in
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.(KJV) Let me tell you when Isaiah refers to a filthy rag he is not just talking about a rag you clean with. I will simply tell you what Rodney told us it was and move on. But you need to know, because you need to know the disgust of our righteousness in God’s eyes. He is referring to a menstrual cloth. Jesus died for my self-righteousness, yet I, like the older brother in Luke 15 seem to think I can earn His blessing, mercy, grace, love, or whatever by being good enough. GET OVER IT ANGIE! YOU WILL NEVER MEASURE UP!

Now take a look at Luke 15:28b “So his father went out and pleaded with him.” I don’t need to measure up. Because, just like with the younger brother, the father once again shows us God’s amazing grace.
 He also RUNS to the older son
He entreats the older son
He gets on His knees
If the older son will, all he has to do is submit to Jesus

The following are a few questions from Jerry Bridges, author of several books including “The Pursuit of Holiness”. I believe that is where these questions and the quote to follow came from. If I am wrong, I apologize. Rodney shared this with us and I did not totally catch the reference.

These questions expose self-righteousness:
Do you tend to live by a list of dos and don’ts?
Is it difficult for you to respect those whose standards aren’t as high as yours?
Do you assume that practicing spiritual disciplines should result in God’s blessing?
Do you feel you’re better than most other people?
Has it been a long time since you identified a sin and repented of it?
Do you resent it when others point out your “spiritual blind spots”?
Do you readily recognize the sins of others but not your own?
Do you have the sense that God owes you a good life?
Do you get angry when difficulties and suffering come into your life?
Do you seldom think of the cross?

“If you found yourself answering yes to at least half these questions, it’s likely you’re living under a stronghold of self-righteousness toward God. You need to see this for what it really is-a hideous enemy disguised as a satisfying glory. It will let you down and leave you hanging. Its satisfaction is as short-lived as an ice cube in the blazing sun; its glory has all the appeal of a well-dressed corpse. And at the end of the day this fact remains: no amount of personal performance will ever gain the approval of a holy God.”

May God Bless You All!

Living in Grace,

If you are interested in listening to any of the messages on Luke 15 by Rodney Hobbs, Pastor of Stonegate Church, Midlothian, TX. Please listen to the podcast at Luke 15-Part 5 The Prodigal Son, The Self-Righteous 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mirroring God's Forgiveness

Well…It’s not quite the weekend, is it? Oops, Oh my! If I could just get my life under control! We took off to Oklahoma on Saturday and moved our youngest child in with my mom. Then on Monday she and I spent the morning straightening out all the problems with her registration at the college she will be attending. Finally we returned to Texas for her to tie up some loose ends. Now I am finally sitting down to write Part 4 of Luke 15.

Let’s see what the prodigal son and God have for us as we dive in to Part 4 of Luke 15.

Luke 15:17-19
 17"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' (ESV)

Notice the first phrase of verse 17. “But when he came to himself”, basically Jesus is saying, “when he came to his senses”, or “when he realized what he was doing”, then this prodigal son said to himself “what am I doing here? I’ve sinned against God and my father! I repent!” Just like we talked about last time. I love the way Rodney put it, “Grace awakened the younger son to how the Father forgives!” He never would have returned if he had not known that his father would not forgive him, but he KNEW his father would forgive. We KNOW our FATHER forgives!!! I could camp here and praise GOD for his Grace in forgiveness! We are so blessed with HIS forgiveness!!! Well…we must move on…

Just like with repentance, we need to define forgiveness so we are all on the same page. Forgiveness is canceling someone else’s debt. In actuality, I wear that debt or pain.

Rodney shared several great points about forgiveness. I won’t go into them as points, but I would like to tell you some things this message taught me. Had I been that father I may have been sitting on the front porch waiting for the son, and plotting my punishment and even revenge on my own son for the way he had treated me. What about you? Remember…he has taken 1/3 of what you own and in essence said, “You are dead to me!” Is that what this father does? Is that what our Father does when we ask for forgiveness? Absolutely NOT!!! He is waiting, anticipating, our arrival. He is aggressive in His forgiveness. HE RUNS TO US! If you have never heard the song “When God Ran” you must listen to it. I know of 3 recordings of this song. It is about this very thing. Benny Hester recorded it in 1986, then Phillips, Craig and Dean did it in 1999 and in 2008 The Kingsmen Quartet also recorded it. Each time it has been very popular because of it’s extraordinary lyrics. I will post links to YouTube recordings by each person/group. Please listen! This is exactly what God does. He is aggressive, He runs to us, grabs us, hugs us tells us He is happy to see us and forgives us. God has sacrificed His one and only son to forgive us.

John 3:16  16"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.(ESV)

In our definition I mentioned that the one who forgives “wears the debt or pain”. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, He said to us, “I will wear your debt.” That gives me chills. That makes me want to cry. He sacrificed His LIFE for ME! ME!  I should be willing to give my life as a LIVING sacrifice. (Ok so that living sacrifice part isn’t necessarily part of forgiveness, I just added that. So as Michael Booth says, “that part’s free.” But don’t you think, if He was willing to DIE for us, the least we can do is LIVE for HIM!)

Romans 12:1-2  1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

Now consider this, the father began with a posture of forgiveness. What I mean is, way before the son ever returned, the father already had a forgiving and loving heart. Before we can forgive we must stop dwelling on the sin or the wrong that has been done. Ok did that sting? I know it did me.

So you may be saying, “Angie, these are all good principles, but how do I apply this in a practical way to my life?” If I am not constantly forgiving those in my faith family as they sin against me, I will build a wall of bitterness, strife and malice in my heart. Obviously that does nothing but hurt my spiritual walk and damage my relationship with others. So I need to examine my forgiving to see if it mirrors God’s. Do I forgive aggressively, sacrificially, and do I have a posture for forgiveness? That is the way God forgives. That is the way I want to forgive.

I want to touch on something. If you listen to the podcast you will find that towards the end Rodney talks about reconciliation. In most cases I believe that forgiveness and reconciliation go hand in hand. As we forgive we also rebuild or reconcile those relationships that were broken. But I also believe there are times that we do our part in forgiveness but reconciliation does not, some times cannot or even needs not happen. Before you quit reading and storm off mad, please let me explain. When I have been wronged it is MY job to FORGIVE! That takes care of me. It takes care of me on a spiritual level, emotional level and even a physical level. I have done what God has asked me to do. I am released of the anxiety, bitterness and other emotional turmoil caused by hanging on to the wrong that was done to me. This wrong cannot cause me physical pain, no headaches, stomachaches, tight muscles or any other ailments from holding a grudge. Yet we have all experienced times when the other party simply will not accept that we have forgiven them, for whatever reason. In that case, we are not responsible for them. We can pray for them, but we cannot worry about their acceptance of our forgiveness and reconciliation of the relationship. Then there are times when reconciliation should not take place. Unfortunately in this world this happens, when someone is physically or sexually abused. I believe that the abused person needs to forgive for all the same reasons I listed above, but there should never be a relationship with the abuser again for obvious reasons. Again this problem is the abusers’ not the abused. The abuser can be prayed for. However if the abuser tries to reconcile he/she usually ends up being hurt more and possibly even abused again. It is better to avoid that all around and “forgive and forget”.

I want to see if I can mirror God’s forgiveness. How about you?

Matthew 18:21-22  21At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?"
 22Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. (The Message)

Living in Grace,

If you are interested in listening to any of the messages on Luke 15 by Rodney Hobbs, Pastor of Stonegate Church, Midlothian, TX. Please listen to the podcast at: 

·      *Don’t forget to check out my new pages!
·                  I have updates on the burn victims!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Life of Repentance

Hello again friends!
I must apologize for allowing other things to get in the way of my writing this blog. I will get into that a little while later.

I may be behind in posting, but we are not behind at all with our study of Luke 15. Today I want to talk about Part 3 of our series on the Prodigal Son- Repentance. Let me just tell you from the beginning, this one is a hard one for me. I really thought I understood repentance. WOW! I now see so many things I have been so wrong about. So buckle your seat belts and let’s get started.

First why don’t you reread Luke 15:12-32 just to remind yourself of the entire parable…

Maybe I have a twisted sense of humor, those that really know me will probably say a resounding YES!!!, but I find this first thing that Rodney points out ironically funny, yet very interesting. Take a look at verse 13, depending on the version you are using (I’m looking at 4 different ones right now, haha), it only takes the son 9 words (ESV) (8 in the KJV or NIV) to squander his entire inheritance! This tells me some things about God’s character. He doesn’t focus on where the son went, how he got there or even how he lost the inheritance. God is only concerned about 2 things: 1.the son’s need-where he IS, his current position, he has a need NOW, and 2.that the son return-repent and restore fellowship with the father (God).

One more, quick thought before we get to the real meat, the repentance part. Verse 14 speaks of a famine. We have NO idea what it means to live through a famine. Yes, we are in a drought right now. As I understand it, one of the worst droughts in history. The last time Texas was this dry was in 1951. That was the beginning of a 6 year drought. Texas and the rest of the United States, can still grow and ship food. We will NOT go hungry! However, in Jesus’ day when the crops dried up, there was NO food for the animals or humans. So when the animals don’t eat the humans can’t eat meat and the humans can’t have crops when there are none. So for this son, at first he thinks, desperate times call for desperate measures and he begins by feeding the pigs. Then eating with them, because he has NOTHING. Then the light bulb comes on! DING!

This is where he must choose repentance. Oh how I wish I could give you ALL of my notes on this message! It is SO good! Instead I will focus on one point that God knocked me over the head with. So I will share with you then you can listen to the message in its entirety later.

As a Christian is my life marked by repentance? How often am I repenting? Not how often am I sinning? I’ve been saved for almost 40 years yet I have always focused on sinning instead of repenting. As soon as I say it, I can see immediately how Satan can use it. Can’t you? Why would I focus on the negative thing?

Let’s get a little clearer view of repentance. I know most of us have heard the definition of turning away from one thing (the negative or sinful thing) and turning toward God, or making an about face, turning 180o. It is all of these, but it includes a step of faith. So what if we say that repentance is turning away from sin and in faith moving toward the Savior.

Here is the thing that just grabbed me. When we sin, even when it is a wrong towards another person, it is always primarily against God. In case you are slow or hard headed like me, let me say it again. Sin is ALWAYS PRIMARILY AGAINST GOD! OUCH! I’m not doing things to intentionally hurt God! But I am! Every single time I sin! That made my sin SO much more real to me. I realized every time I tell a “little white lie”, I’m lying to God. When I’m vindictive to someone, I’m being vindictive to God. When I steal a pen or paperclip from work, I’m stealing from God. When my attitude is hateful, rude, unloving, mean, or selfish, I am being hateful, rude, unloving, mean or selfish to my loving, kind, selfless, gracious Savior. The very one who gave his life for ME! THAT IS WHO I’M SINNING AGAINST. THAT IS WHO I’M OFFENDING. What have I been thinking? How selfish, self-centered and egotistical of me to live my life like it is MINE!

Just to reinforce this point, let’s look at Psalm 51.
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3For I know my transgressions,
 and my sin is ever before me. 
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
 and done what is evil in your sight, 
so that you may be justified in your words
 and blameless in your judgment.
 5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
 and in sin did my mother conceive me. 
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
 and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
 wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
 8Let me hear joy and gladness;
 let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
 and blot out all my iniquities. 
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
 and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
 and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
 and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
 and sinners will return to you. 
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
 O God of my salvation,
 and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
 15O Lord, open my lips,
 and my mouth will declare your praise. 
16For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
 you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
 17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
 a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
 build up the walls of Jerusalem; 
19then will you delight in right sacrifices,
 in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
 then bulls will be offered on your altar.
David wrote this after his sin with Bathsheba. Take a look at the part I have highlighted in yellow. Even David realized that his sin was against GOD. He doesn’t say I’ve sinned against Bathsheba or even Uriah, her husband, which to me is logical. No David says “against you, you only, have I sinned”! As you read the chapter did you see it? I did! David got it! David understood the impact his sin had on God. How it grieved God’s heart. I’m still not sure I do. Do you? The only way it really seems to hit me is when I look at it this way…Every time I sin, I picture that sin as the nail that nails Jesus to the cross. The problem there is I want to deny it and look away, but I can’t! That is EXACTLY what my sins did!

Now that I know who I am sinning against and how my sin effects my God, I know I must turn to Him and repent. We’ve already established that repentance is turning away from sin, and in faith moving toward the Savior. It is NOT confession. Confession is simply telling God what we have done. When we repent, we move toward Him. That means our relationship with Him changes. We are restoring a once broken relationship. We get closer to Him. I make a choice to get closer to Him. To spend more time with Him, reading His word, praying, singing, whatever it takes to become closer and more like Jesus. He is so merciful, He will ALWAYS WELCOME ME HOME!

Now due to this message, I feel I need to tell all of you something. At the beginning of today’s post, I apologized for allowing other things to get in the way of my blog. I want you to know. I have asked God to forgive me for not staying up with this for the last couple of weeks. I truly believe this is a ministry He has given me and I have let Him down. I know He has forgiven me, now I ask that you all please accept my apology and pray for me as I continue this. I have many things bombarding me right now, but I need to stay committed to this since it is something I believe God has gifted me with.

Thank you and God Bless You.
I am planning on posting Part 4 before the weekend is over!

Living in Grace,

If you are interested in listening to any of the messages on Luke 15 by Rodney Hobbs, Pastor of Stonegate Church, Midlothian, TX. Please listen to the podcast at 

Luke 15-Part 3

* Don’t forget to check out my new pages!