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Real Joy In Every Moment

There are lots of ideas floating around out there as to how a person can truly be happy, yet the answer is right within us, if we are Christians.

Christ lists nine ways in does not mean that we necessarily will experience joy unless we by faith rest in Him. We must make a choice to let Christ be our joy, to let Him give us joy, and to believe that He will do just that. If we falter in our faith, we will try to manufacture our own joy, which will not last and will fail. Only when we find our happiness in the person of Jesus as we rest in Him can we experience true joy. We must rest in Him, love Him, enjoy Him, worship Him, and trust in the fact that our lives are indeed hidden with Christ in God (. Constant communion with God is possible through Christ Who works in and through us.

Some well-meaning Christians try to have joy in their circumstances. Circumstances can be brutal, awful, difficult, and hopeless. There may be nothing happy about them. But the wonderful reality about happiness that comes from the Holy Spirit is that it can occur despite the circumstances. We are not to try to have joy in our circumstances but rather in God, Who is in complete control over our circumstances. We can rest in His character as we know He promises to cause all things to work together for our good (. There is no other source of happiness than Jesus Himself.

. In other words, obedience to God is central to experiencing the joy of God. If we do not follow His will and listen to the Holy Spirit in accordance with God's Word, we will lose out on our joy. There may be some there, seeing that we know we are saved, yet the fullness of joy is gone because we are not being and doing what God would have us be and do. The darkest times of life are the times of disobedience because there is a lack of joy even if circumstances are easy. In fact, the brightest and most joyous times can actually be when we triumph in faith and obedience during the most difficult and oppressive of times. If we want joy that is supernatural and truly divine, then we must walk in obedience, resting in God all the while.

Life has happiness in it because God made it. Even sin has pleasure, though it is passing away along with this world. Thus, God doesn't want us to try to find joy in that kind of pleasure, for He desires to give good and perfect gifts, pleasures that endure forever (. When we put our confidence in God and choose to have His joy, we can have access to a fruit of the Spirit which is unspeakably wonderful. It transcends the issues of life and draws our minds to heaven. His joy is a pleasure that is forever, and we can experience it even this very moment if we walk in faith and obedience.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like Brent's book on revival called Catch Fire: A Call to Spiritual Awakening. Visit for a free preview!

Reaping the Benefits of Someone Else's Sacrifice

I had to return to a lesson learned a while back this past week. The lesson was on sacrifice. I returned to this lesson because I found myself in a place where I was beginning to forget what true sacrifice was. As far back as I can remember I have fought for something. I remember fighting for approval and acceptance and trying to earn it from those I cared about, even as a child. When I was in High School I was already living on my own and had to work on weekends to save money for collage, in collage I supported myself and again had to work a lot. Long hours of study and work as well as pressure to succeed and simply survive resulted in a restricted social life. I felt like I was making the necessary sacrifices. As I finished school and began working, the pursuit of my career has resulted in a lot of moves and travel making it hard to settle down or get involved in a relationship. Traveling to Africa was one of the most challenging and revealing experiences by far. Leaving behind the comforts of the western world to work in a foreign place with a foreign culture was hard in many ways but it made me vulnerable and humble enough to learn lessons that I truly believe might have never been learned otherwise. In those times I could think, "Your sacrifices will pay off. You will make a difference." Yet, even in those moments I still did not understand what true sacrifice was. Sudan taught me a lot about the true meaning of sacrifice but even since my return I am continually learning this lesson. Returning to the US and re-joining the "rat race" has also forced me to remember this. As I continue to work for approval, for acceptance, for a status and for what I believe to be right, I can sometimes mistake momentary inconvenience motivated by selfish gain for true sacrifice motivated by love.

Hard work, study, any delay in experiencing immediate pleasure are all sacrifices that allow us to reap future rewards. This is how sacrifice is typically understood if we are honest enough with ourselves to admit it. So what I usually refer to as a sacrifice is really an investment in myself- whether working over time or "sacrificing" my starbucks in order to save some money. But true sacrifice does not pay off materially. God can choose to let me prosper but I don't earn prosperity with sacrifice. My heart was truly exposed recently when my 'sacrifices' did not reap the desired benefits. Serving a friend didn't reap the desired gratitude and working longer and harder at work towards a task that I was attempting for the first time resulted in someone else receiving credit for it. I felt the bitterness stir up inside me and it took everything in me to not hold on to it or give into it. I am not the martyr here, Jesus is.

Matthew 27:11-14 11Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied. 12When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13Then Pilate asked him, 'Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?' 14But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge - to the great amazement of the governor.

v 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

It's easy to hear about Jesus' sacrifice and take for granted his response as a 'natural God response.' This was his role to play. He took the physical and emotional abuse because it was who he was. But that's not really true because we see throughout the bible that that is not who he was. Even though he went like a lamb to the slaughter his character was not one of passiveness. Just look at:

Matthew 23:15 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

Jhn8:44(NIV) You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Mtt 16:23(NIV) Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

Jesus didn't tolerate being falsely accused, beaten, and crucified. When he allowed himself to be put to death as a sacrifice for our sins, he sacrificed his personality as well as his body. True sacrifice leaves me vulnerable but this vulnerability should not be mistaken for weakness. I believe that to genuinely sacrifice takes great strength and endurance.

I know it is hard for me to go against my character to do things differently, to choose humility instead of pride, or submission instead of rebellion. It is hard for me to "do" without expecting in return or wanting to see some type of results. But Jesus laid down his personality right there with his body when he laid down his life. He didn't even argue. How did he prosper as a result? He already had a relationship with God and he was already worshiped.

When Jesus died so that I might be saved, if I even decided to follow him, he got nothing in return. Nothing. No personal growth. No improved relationships. No profits. No promotion. Many times no recognition for the miracles preformed. Nothing.

I am learning to give and not expect in return, in fact giving in instances when I know full well there will be no return. Giving in this way is difficult, it's down right painful! When you know that the receiver just doesn't recognize your love or your acts of service and they may never fully understand the extent of your love, it is then that you learn true sacrifice, putting them before you, giving despite the lack of reciprocation. Whether you are giving to an individual or a village of people it does not matter- true sacrifice is an act of love. When I have felt the pain of true sacrifice I was able to draw closer to Jesus and appreciate his sacrifice for me in a more genuine way. I needed to feel this pain again in order to remember. Only when I remain focused and accept who it is that I am really serving am I able to sacrifice with a clear conscious and light heart.

Rearended by a Baptist

This past Monday morning as I was heading up to the local coffee house, the Lock 'N Key, I took my usual route. I headed toward the downtown area of Georgetown by turning left onto Champion Way and then out to U. S. 62. Something odd happened as I got to the junction of Champion Way and 62. I was following a school bus which stopped at the light and let a car go by before turning right. As I was approaching the traffic signal I noticed that the light was still red and that nothing at all was coming from the left on 62. I happened to glance in my rearview mirror and saw a SUV coming up behind me.

As I got to the light, I stopped before turning right. That's when it hit me, literally. I am serious. It hit me. The SUV rammed into me from behind as I stopped at the light before turning right. I could not believe that someone would rearend a vehicle when the light was so obviously red and the law clearly states, "right on red after stop." I put my car in park and got out to see if there was any damage. I really did not expect to see any as I was not hit that hard and my air bag didn't deploy.

The driver of the SUV got out also and joined me in looking for possible damage. That's when he asked the million dollar question. "Why did you stop?" Now consider this for a moment. I am a preacher. I have been chewed out by my membership over the years because they have seen me drive too fast, roll stop signs and not use my turn signal. I have somewhat learned my lesson and realize that the sign you obey may be the one that a lost person sees. Then I realized that the man who hit me was one of the local Baptist ministers.

He continued, "There was nothing coming. I could see it and I'm sure you could see it. Why did you stop?" I slowly organized my thoughts as I considered how to respond to this man. I pretended to not know who he was and said, "I stopped because I was a Christian and I was concerned about my witness to you as someone who might see me and think me careless." He replied, "I'm a pastor. I didn't give it a second thought." I told him I was a pastor, too. We decided that there was no damage so we got back into our cars and went our separate ways.

The number of times that I have resented being held to a higher calling than others are many. I have learned from those the meaning of Paul's encouraging statement to the young evangelist, Timothy. "Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12 Following the laws of the road is one way to do that. People notice the little things; stopping at stop lights, signaling your intentions, being a courteous driver. As Christians, if we fail to perform these things, we fail to witness. Be careful. The person you don't rearend might be the next one God wants you to win.

Reassurance

This past week was a very interesting and frustrating one. March 23 was Easter. That Sunday was wonderful. Our church had its Sunrise Service which was centered on the empty tomb and the solid Rock of Jesus Christ. This was followed with a breakfast of biscuits and gravy, sausage and pancakes. Then came the morning worship and a wonderful Easter celebration focusing on the rush that Easter gives us as we rush from the darkness of death to the light of life, from dwelling on the past to rejoicing in the future, and from the appearance of religion to the reality of Christ.

Then came Tuesday, March 25. After exulting in the resurrection of Christ I had to deal with the ten year anniversary of the sudden and unexpected death of my father. His passing had a profound effect on my life. It raised some issues that I finally got a grip on in the past two years. Unsettled situations and raging doubts can nag a soul to spiritual drought and eventually death, but only if one allows them to do so. I had to get some things straight in order to get them resolved. With the anniversary of his death came only the pain of not having him here with me now, and nothing more.

Then the press of what was coming for Sunday, March 30 was right before me. March 30 was a fifth Sunday. Normally, under the plan of the congregation I serve, that would have been a Youth Sunday. However, during my bout with cancer there were no Youth Sundays even though there were two fifth Sundays. It was time to reinstitute the Youth Sunday celebration. I had planned a program called, 'Meet the Lemons', based on a series of pictures I had on file in which fruits and vegetables were portrayed with facial features. It took most of the week, but it finally came together and the kids loved it this past Sunday.

With those three things figuring prominently in my mind this past week I almost forgot that it wasn't that long ago that I had gotten out of the hospital. March 27 was my appointment with Dr. Colin, my ear-nose-throat specialist. No time for the euphoria of Easter or the sorrow of one's passing or the press of a needed program. It was reality time. Through all of the events of the week I was seeking reassurance; of Christ's resurrection, of my father's salvation, of the coming program's success. Now it was time for the reassurance that my voice would come back to fairly normal.

I have been preaching with a paralyzed vocal chord since March 2. I have been doing well but I have a breath problem talking. My good vocal chord has nothing against which to work so the air just flies past it making my speech a little fragmented. I have to talk in phrases to make up sentences instead of having the breath to speak in complete sentences. I know in my heart (and have for some time) that my voice is probably not coming back on its own. I needed reassurance that I could recover a semblence of my former voice.

Dr. Colin informed me that I could. It would be a fairly simple procedure of inserting a plug against the bad vocal chord to press it over against the good one. He said that the success rate for the procedure is almost 100 %. As I left his office that day with my wife, Becky, I remembered the words of the apostle Paul when he wrote, 'I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.' Philippians 4:11 Christ is risen, my father is with Him, the children learned and as long as I have a voice to proclaim such truths that is all I need.

Recalculating...

My daughter has one of those GPS thingys… Global Positioning Systems… that tells you how to get from point A to point B. Sometimes it doesn't take the usual route that I've gone for the past several years from point A to point B, and that has given me a fresh look at where I live. I never knew you could drive down Palestine Road and get to Jackson Landing with no traffic. Or take Highway 11 instead of the Interstate and shave off 15 minutes. Fascinating that it will tell you the quickest route or shortest route, all you have to do is plug it in and then type in where you want to go.

Another fascinating thing is that it won't yell and scream at you if you miss a turn. It says, "Recalculating." Then in a few seconds, it will tell you to "Turn right at the next intersection in 400 meters…" If you miss that turn, "Recalculating…" How refreshing. It will continue to recalculate your position and give you directions back to where you need to go, even if you've missed the mark by a wide margin. Always patient, never excited, never yelling or waving the map around pointing to an indistinct spot on the map saying, "You missed the exit! We'll be another hour before we get there!" Then adding a few more "Harumphs!" just to let you know that you are an incompetent driver.

Last week we talked about how to know God's personal will for our lives. We don't always follow the perfect route that God has laid out for us. If we did, we'd most likely have fewer bloody knees and noses because we'd fall down less often, I'm sure. However, God, in His perfect foreknowledge of us and His design of the perfect works we are to do in our Christian walk, prepared for those moments for "Recalculating."

Think about Sampson, called by God to judge Israel. He was born to an infertile couple, although the Bible calls The Wife barren. She is not named, however the father is Manoah of the Tribe of Dan. The Angel of the LORD came to The Wife and told her she would bare a son and he was to be dedicated to the LORD, be a Nazarite (someone who makes a vow to God and who does not drink strong drink, never cuts his hair until the vow is complete which could be for life or for a pre-set time) most likely for life as God asked for him to be dedicated from the womb.

Compare Sampson with Samuel. The only thing similar between the two was they were both Sam. Samuel did as the LORD bade him, followed the Torah, and he was a great Judge of Israel. Sampson, on the other hand was not so dedicated to the LORD.

Sampson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman of the daughters of the Philistines. His dad said, "Is there no one of our people that you would like to marry? Must you go to another nation to claim a wife?" God had forbidden Israel to marry women from seven surrounding nations, but the Philistines were not one of the nations God had forbidden. Technically speaking, to marry one of them was not a sin, but they were uncircumcised, and they were foreign. Sampson's choice of a bride was seriously weak. In fact, his choice in women was poor to say the least, and he could not see the deceit of his choices for what it was. God, however, took Sampson's poor choice and used it to work against the wickedness of the Philistines. God destroyed the power of this people through one man and his weaknesses rather than through an army just as He used one small boy and a stone to destroy a Philistine giant.

So off Sampson's father goes and procures this woman that Sampson must have for a wife. At the wedding feast, he sets a riddle for the guests along with a bet. They puzzled over the riddle for three days then finally threatened the wife to find out the answer upon pain of death of her and her father if she did not. Instead of telling her husband of their treachery, she enticed Sampson to tell her the answer. This set of a chain of events that lead to the killing of 30 Philistines, then the torching of the ripened wheat fields plus olive groves and vineyards. This led to the killing of 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. The oppression of Israel by the Philistines was lifted and Israel was a peace for about twenty years.

In our weakness is God's strength. No more is that evident than when Sampson fell in love with Delilah. His weakness for Philistine women with terrible ethics and no loyalty for their husband ends with his death and the destruction of the temple to the Philistines' demon god, Dagon. One must wonder that if he could slay 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey, what kind of destruction could he have wreaked if he had not fallen for Delilah. How much greater would God's glory have been if Sampson had been obedient to the calling of the LORD?

The Dagon idol landed on its face broken to pieces which did bring God glory. It would be almost laughable, if the consequence of Sampson's sin wasn't so tragic.

In Judges 16:20, he did not even know the LORD had departed from him. How incredibly sad. One has to wonder how many Christians today disobey the LORD and give into all kinds of temptations of the flesh and either lose their life as Sampson did, or suffer all kinds of consequences because of their sin? And never knowing how much richer their life would be if only their relationship with the LORD was strong and deep, not pockmarked with disobedience and rebellion. God "recalculated" after Sampson's sin and His purpose was served with the destruction of Dagon's Temple and all those within its walls, including Sampson, but the tragic ending may not have been, except for the disobedience.

Make sure your GPS -- God Positioning System -- is plugged in before you start your day. Listen for that still small voice and follow the instructions. It can definitely keep you on track.

Redefined

I had this hard week at work a few weeks back. It wasn't hard because of the workload or because of someone else, it was hard because I came in on Monday, was called into my supervisor's office and called out on not doing my best. I was confronted for shoveling work that I did not want to do onto my subordinates (for lack of a better term). However, these young women are not my subordinates, they are my team mates and I could have tried a little harder before just placing the load before me onto them and then complaining bout not feeling challenged. I spent the rest of that week and every day since trying to reapply myself, to apologize and to thank them for their patience. I could have pointed out their faults when I was confronted, God knows they have them, I could have retaliated on the exaggerations and false statements, but at the root I knew in my heart that I had not set an example worth following.

I left work that week feeling so humbled and humiliated but feeling challenged in the best way possible.

Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking [such culture] always dragging you down to its level of immaturity…

I felt challenged and relieved because I was able to see that I did not have to respond the way the world would. I did not have to try and save face or protect my pride because all that mattered was how Christ looked to those women and not me. I know that a challenging and yet mundane task will come, oh in fact I think it is brewing even as I type this, and when it comes I will squirm in my seat and want to pass it off instead of risking failing at it. I realized while I battled this fear that somewhere along the way I have begun to let other things define me. I have let my job performance define me which resulted in my poor action described above. I have also let how others treat me define me at times.

After my incredibly long humiliating week I went away for the weekend only to be hurt by people I really respected during my holiday get away. I was so hurt in fact that I didn't even want to tell them that they had hurt me. Instead I wanted to simply allow myself to get hard but that too wouldn't have been right. I confronted my offenders, my friends, and was vulnerable expressing my feeling hurt and disrespected. It took everything in me to do that after my workweek but as I did I noticed how God was striping away everything I was allowing to give me any bit of confidence that was not Him.

I have been shifting my focus back onto His words to allow him to define me. I have had to let go of people and position in order to do so. It has hurt and been uncomfortable but it is freeing. I feel a bit raw and I might get hurt by any of the people I have left myself open to, whether coworkers or friends, and yet somehow I am beginning to see a side of Christ's love through it that I do not think I ever understood before.

Ish 62:4(NIV) No longer will they call you deserted, or name your land desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah {my delight is in her} and your land Beulah {married} for the Lord will take delight in you.

I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt.

Psalm 37:23-24 If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumbles, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

Rejected for Life

Guano. Know what that is? No it's not what native bearers called the person for whom they worked. That's Bwana. Guano is bird droppings. Yes, the stuff that you see on the sidewalks and on your deck in the peak seasons for birds. I know. It's nasty stuff and probably doesn't belong in a spiritual column. Bear with me and I will explain. By the way, you can be happy that the birds that live around you are not the kind that inhabit a certain area for generation after generation. A little enlightenment.

Fish-eating birds have been depositing their droppings in the same location for, well, as long as they have been released from the ark after the flood. The result is huge deposits of guano which are rich in nitrogen and phosphorous and highly prized as an agricultural fertilizer. Many of these deposits are found on small either sparsely or totally uninhabited islands. To access these deposits the U. S. government actually passed a bill that created the Guano Act of 1856 for the purpose of harvesting the valuable mounds of droppings.

The two most prominent companies which mined guano in the early days of the Guano Act were the Baltimore-based Navassa Phosphate Company and the appropriately named American Guano Company. These companies laid claims to whole islands in order to stave off the competition; somewhat akin to filing a mining claim. Hundreds of tons of the stuff was mined each year from a number of small Atlantic and Pacific islands no larger than the average county in your state.

What is fascinating about all of this is that something which is nothing more than excrement, animal waste, became valuable as that which could return life to the soil. In the agricultural boom following the Civil War guano played a major part in restoring war torn crop fields. Literally, what is good for nothing more than to be left alone and ignored as mere garbage became the foundation for the restoration of life for many American farmers. The way that we look at bird droppings gives us an insight to the way the Jewish leaders felt about Jesus. He was garbage, excrement; something for them to scrape off the heel of their shoe and be rid of.

Matthew, Mark and Luke ( all recorded Jesus' use of a prophecy contained in one of David's writings. "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." Psalm 118 22,23 I have talked to some old time builders who have basically said that if a stone is not fit for the foundation it is not fit to be a cornerstone. It's garbage; building excrement. Yet, David wrote about it, God commanded it and Jesus applied it.

That which was deemed worthless, useless, a bother by the Jewish leaders has become the starting point of spiritual life; the point of origin from which our relationship with God emanates. "For no other foundation can be laid than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 3:11 Jesus was literally rejected for life; our life.

Rejection

That kind of wind that dances with your pant legs whipped out across the lake. It teased the tops of waves and got colder as it raced across the top of the water. It laughed making the waves ripple. The water's chill infused the wind, and it got colder. The breeze off the water hit the marble of the steps and spewed up, circling around and finding a perfect hat. It was made of wool and black as night.

The owner of the hat clamped her hand down on the hat. The hat whimpered to the wind. But the owner grinned and turned into the wind.

"You can't have it." the owner bellowed. "It's mine!" The owner of the hat kept walking along the stone embankment. A few more steps and she found a bench. She tucked her thin coat tighter around herself and settled to the seat. The stone bench was cold, so she scooted into a better position and leaned back glaring into the wind. At her taunt, the wind forgot its prey and died down to a moaning, and the woman grinned. "Ha," she said speaking to the wind, "you can't defy me."

Her hand splayed across the brim of her hat and she felt it's warm wool. She spent a few minutes feeling the warmth of her hat in her fingers, then brought it to her lap, tucking her other hand into its warmth. The wind swirled around and lifted the hair on her head in a dance about her face. She tossed her head letting it riffle the brown tufts from her eyes. The wind stung bright color in her cheeks which were bare of makeup. Ah, well. It didn't matter. It was only cold and wind that she'd met full face. Who would she meet today? There was no one. She put the hat back on and only for a moment did warmth suffuse her.

Suddenly, a weariness slammed her so intensely she sank into the hard bench, almost like a candle gone to soft wax, losing shape and flattening on a plate. The wind sang to an audience of one as she sat watching cold water wave and ebb to the mournful tune. Her thin coat didn't seem so warm and the wool hat didn't protect. That hat had been perched on her head when she met him face to face. She'd known him for a long time, and the face to face hadn't seemed important at first. Then love had grown, and pictures weren't enough. The face to face became important. She hadn't cared what he looked like. His insides were beautiful, at least that's how she read them from all their emails. They seemed beautiful long enough to catch her in the first flush of love and move her across four states. Leaving almost everything behind she had thrown herself into being perfect… what he wanted… what he required. It wasn't hard at first because love obscured flaws, both his and hers.

The cold wind swirled and lifted the hat . She clamped down on it again. Okay, all right. There had been another, she glared at the gray sky. Her blue eyes grew red and tears dropped from her cold cheeks onto cold stone.

"He was first, Lord. I just thought being betrayed was the worst that could happen. I know he was supposed to be forever, but let's don't talk about that one now, Father. That was over a long time ago," she glared up at the clouds. I did what You asked and I forgave the perverted, selfish--" A crooked grin made a dimple appear in her tear streaked cheek. "I guess I have a little more work to do on that forgiveness thing."

The wind snatched at the hat, but she was quick to lower her glaring eyes and tug it low on her forehead. After a few moments, the tears chilled to frost on her cheek; then, turned to ice as they dripped from her face.

She brushed the ice from her chin with the back of her hand. Despair sat on her. It dug a hole and dragged her to the brink. Her body and mind melted into the hole, finding bleak anguish that pressed her into the hands of torment which pushed her deeper into the black hole. No way up, only down. She let go of hope. It rolled out of her like the tears on her cheeks, and her heart crackled as it froze.

What had happened? She'd tried so desperately to be perfect. She studied all about being the perfect wife, and had asked God to clearly show her what her purpose had been to move four states away from family and friends and the church family that loved her warts and all. Here, she'd been to several churches but could find none that had that perfectly warm feeling as soon as you walked in the door. No church that enveloped you in grandmother-arms full of love and comfort and smelled of the fragrance to the Lord. It was so hard when the husband didn't care a fig about going to church even though he'd promised he'd start going as soon as she got there. Another promise broken. It was insidious how the promises were broken.

Of course the hormones departing in such rage from her body which the medical society called menopause didn't help. It was a monster that slept then woke to breathe fire and brimstone then slept then woke to claw at nerves already stretched trying to cope with new husband, new home, new dog, and ten years of man-grime.

"Oh, God!" she cried with every particle of anguish that saturated her being. "Help me," she whispered. "I cannot stand it. I cannot bear it. He doesn't want me. I am abhorrent in his eyes. He took everything I had, sifted through it and called it rubbish. I tried to be what he wanted. I begged you to change me, to change me into something acceptable to him. Oh, God, where are You? Don't you even care about this shattered heart of mine?"

The wind stilled, seeming appalled at the raw passion of her plea. The sun jabbed a finger through the thick clouds as it lowered to the horizon, and then poked several holes in them. The effect was spectacular color. The woman was oblivious with her face in her hands and her mind in the hole of despair.

A man heard her cry and sat down beside her. He put his arm around her shoulders and just sat with her, his warmth soaking up the chill first from her shoulders then her body. Somehow she knew that he didn't care how long she chose to sit there; that he was determined to sit with her forever. She trusted that warmth, and leaned into it mumbling throug her hands, 'Thank you for coming.'

Finally, a lifetime later it seemed, she said, "I begged Him to change me so I'd be acceptable." Tears filled her palms.

"I know," he said, pulling her tighter against his warmth.

"What is wrong with me that I am so unlovely he doesn't want me?"

"Nothing, Beloved, you are very beautiful. Your heart is lovely to behold and you are acceptable to Me. Your obedience and your love for Me, your trust in Me clothes you in bright while linen as the most radiant bride." He hugged her closer and she raised her eyes, gazing out over the water to the extravagant sunset.

"Oh, how stunning that is." Her tear-streaked face reflected the blush of pinks and golds.

"Yes, isn't it?" He smiled. "I was thinking of you when I created it. It is the handiwork of our Father that is so glorious." He wiped her face with his warm hand. "Better now?"

She nodded, then, "Wait. Did I here you right? I'm acceptable to You? How can that be possible?"

"Yes, you heard me aright." He lifted her onto his lap and wrapped both arms around her. "I have been doing a work in you since you first put your hand in Mine. Just because some man doesn't appreciate the work you and I have been doing these many years, does not mean you are unacceptable, Beloved. You are precious to Me. I treasure Your heart. No matter what happens when you go back in that house, I am right there with you. I want your heart just as it is, full of My love. You let me worry about that man you call husband. You let me take care of him. You reflect Me and forgive him. I am with you always and I will never leave you or forsake you."

"How precious are those words in my ears." She was quiet a moment. "Rejection is extremely painful. If not for You it would be literally unbearable." He was silent and held her close. Her breath came in steamy puffs.

Then she stiffened. "Oh!"

"What is it, Beloved?"

"I cannot bear the thought! Oh, how wretched You must have felt! I was rejected by one man that I loved dearly and deeply. But, You… Oh! You are rejected by so many." This time her heart wept a whisper, "In such a very small way, I think I can understand how you must feel by that rejection."

"Hush, child. It was My love for you and the joy of what would be that I endured the cross, and the pain, and despised the shame. And even now I sit at the right hand of the throne of God. Do not grow weary and fainting in your soul, child, for I am here.

She held His hand in both of hers and said, "I cannot express how much I welcome this time with You. You have made me feel so special and so loved and… and so… alive. Thank you. Thank you for Your love and Your protection and thank you for telling me I am acceptable. I think I can actually stand whatever I must in this life because of You. I love You, Lord." She sighed. Turning back to the fine tapestry of sky, she said, "That is an absolutely gorgeous sunset. I am constantly in awe of God's glory and His creation."

"I know." He squeezed her hand. "It pleases Me greatly that you get pleasure from this beauty."

Relatively Rich

It's tax time again and many people still haven't recovered from overspending at Christmas. We may be feeling the financial noose tighten and counting the days until that tax refund shows up. (Or counting the days until we have to write a check to the IRS!) Money can so easily become the master of our lives and it is not a compassionate ruler.

I once saw a man interviewed about money. He was driving an old truck and wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. When asked if he felt rich he answered something like, 'Sure. I have four dollars in my pocket and all my bills are paid.'

Some days that sounds rich to me! In fact, I believe 'rich' is a state of mind and spirit. A large bank account and solid portfolio does not make us rich, only wealthy by earthly standards. We are rich when we recognize all of our non-material blessings.

I often tell my husband, 'we are not poor, we're just broke.' I just wish it wasn't such a perpetual thing. But most of us have been there. Some of us have actually pitched a tent.

What does it mean to be rich? The bible tells us to store up our treasures in heaven where no moth or rust can destroy.

I'm sure you've heard the joke that since God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, it would be nice if he would sell a few and pay the mortgage this month. Sometimes He does!

Not only does he provide us with material things, but with health, friendships, love and wisdom.

If we all sat down to make two lists, one for ways in which we are rich, the other for the areas where we are poor, I know that the 'rich list' would be much longer.

Often when we don't have financial wealth we are blessed with an abundance of wealth in other areas. When my husband left a physically strenuous, 60-hour-a-week night job and started working four days a week for half the pay, it hurt financially, but we wouldn't trade the family time for the extra money.

God provides what we need and much of what we want.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 says, 'Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.'

Remain calm while the storm rages

Did God allow Job to be harmed past endurance? Did God share with Job that Satan was the one playing havoc in his life? Were any of us around when God laid the foundations of the world and when He hung the stars in place?

Well, if you answered 'yes' to any of those questions, please email me, we need to talk.

No, God did not allow harm to Job beyond Job's endurance. Anyone else might have committed suicide. God knew the exactness of Job's strength, faith, will and mental health. God did not allow him to be pushed past a point of no return. God will do no less for us today. He is the same past, present and future... we can depend on that.

Do you ever get a sore soul? I mean a soreness like a sore tooth in your spirit. The feeling just washes through, leaving a feeling of dread or bleakness. I usually get this feeling when something bad is going to happen. This feeling is not from God. It is something that comes from Satan, and I know this through experience.

Some scholars say that we cannot depend on experience, but must depend on and lean on exactly what the Bible says, forgetting feelings... rejecting feelings. But look at the 'set up' in . What an amazing thing. The witness to Job's wife who said, 'Curse God and die.' She had 10 more children. The witness to Job's friends who had advice that produced such contempt from God. b. Job 42:8 And now take for you seven young bulls and seven rams and go to My servant Job, and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. And My servant Job will pray for you. Surely I will lift up his face so as not to do with you according to your folly, in that you have not spoken the right about Me, as My servant Job.

But, look! How sweet the thought... 'I will lift up his face...' Job 42:9

And Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as Jehovah spoke to them. And Jehovah lifted the face of Job. Can't you just feel the soft and tender fingers of God under your chin? Can't you see His tender smile and gentle laughter? How glorious that would be, to have my face cupped by His hands... just to lean into Him and let Him lift not only my face, but my whole self. Yea, Lord, I shout Your praises and Your glory. I am enthralled with Your beauty. After all that, Job had 7 more sons and 3 more daughters and he gave them all inheritance. That's probably about 10 years. The timing seems so LONG, yet to God, it is a mere 'blink, blink... blink'. Remain calm. Be still and know that God is God. Our face will be lifted. We must make our decisions based on our knowledge of God because He always keeps His promises.