Finish the Race

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,  except that in town after town the Holy Spirit assures me that imprisonment and suffering are waiting for me.  But I don’t place any value on my life, if only I can finish my race and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” – Acts 20:22-24, ISV

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Sharing the Gospel is no easy task.  It was with beset with hostility, resentment, persecution, opposition and in some cases leads to imprisonment or even death.  This is how it was in the apostle Paul’s time.  He testified,  I served the Lord with all humility, with tears, and with trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I never shrank from telling you anything that would help you nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance to God and faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:19-21, ISV)He was beaten, imprisoned, in danger of his life at the hands of those who wanted to stop him from doing the work Jesus had called him to do. 

Yet, Paul persevered.  He didn’t allow the actions of others or fear to impede him.  He was in a race and he was determined to finish it even if it cost him his life.  He was  true soldier.  He was in a war that will continue to rage until Jesus returns.  It is a spiritual war and as he pointed out we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 6:12, ISV).  These were the forces which were working against him at every turn of his ministry but through it all, he had the assurance that the Lord was with him. 

When he was in Corinth, the Lord spoke to him in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;  for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”  Paul was encouraged and he remained in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching the Word of God (Acts 18:9, 10, NKJV).

We have the same assurances as Paul did.  We are not alone in our ministry to share the Gospel.  The Lord is with us every step of the way.  We cannot be afraid to do the Lord’s work.  Instead, like the psalmist, we can boldly say, The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6, NKJV).  So, no matter what the enemy throws at us, we are to speak and not keep silent.  The salvation of so many is at stake.  We, like Paul, must finish the race.

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Living Water

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But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” – John 4:14  

When the Samaritan woman needed water, she went to the well to draw it.  There she met a Jewish Man whom she didn’t know was Jesus.  As she was drawing the water, He asked her for a drink.  She was taken aback asking, “How can you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” because Jews didn’t have anything to do with Samaritans.  Racism existed between them.  The Samaritans were a mixed race resulting from intermarriages between the Israelites and the Assyrians after Samaria fell to Assyria.  For the Samaritans worshipped at Mount Gerizim while the Jews believed that the rightful place of worship was in Jerusalem.  Jesus explained to her that it isn’t where we worship God that’s important but how we worship Him.  God wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth.  Our worship must be genuine.

When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, He was thirsty.  It was her response to His request which led Him to said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Please give me a drink,’ you would have been the one to ask him, and he would have given you living water.”

She thought He was speaking about the physical water but He wasn’t.  She doesn’t realize that her need isn’t physical but spiritual.  Her life is in moral decay.  She had been married five times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.  She needed what only Jesus could give her and was freely offering her.  The water in the well could not satisfy her.  It would temporarily quench her thirst but the water Jesus wanted to give her would satisfy her forever.

The woman asked Him,  “Where are you going to get this living water?”  His answer was the water when given to those who receive it, it will become a well, springing up to eternal life.  It was life-giving water.  Jesus is the Source of the living water which He wants to give to all who thirst.  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37).  He is offering the gift of God, which is eternal life. 

What is the living water that Jesus gives to those who thirst?  “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  Ephesians 1:13 states, When you believed in the Messiah, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” 

Jesus knew this woman and what her life was like.  He wanted her to know that despite her past and her present, He wanted to give her a future of hope.  When He made her aware that He knew about her previous marriages and her current living arrangement, He wasn’t condemnatory.  He came to save, not to condemn.  He commended her for being honest when she admitted that the man she lived with wasn’t her husband.  She realized that He was  prophet to be able to know such things and then she changed the subject.  She spoke to Him about worship.

When He told her that God wanted people to worship Him in spirit and in truth, He was basically telling her that worship isn’t just about going to a particular place or church but we worship God by the way we live.  Many of us go to church every week but there are things, relationships, people in our lives that have no business being there or there are things in our lives that we need to sort out, clean up.  Until we do that, we are not giving God the proper worship He desires.  This woman worshipped God but her life was in conflict with His Word and His commandments.  Jesus wanted her to see that true worship was a life that was pleasing to God.

She was looking for the Messiah to come and explain everything.  After Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah, she dropped her water pot and ran off to tell her community.  She said to them, “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”  As a result of her testimony, that “He told me everything I’ve ever done,” many of the Samaritans of that town believed in Jesus.  The Messiah, the Savior of the world had come into that town and reached out to a woman whom many shunned and ostracized her immorality.  Jesus saw someone who needed Him and what He could give her even if she didn’t realize it.  He had a dialogue with her and opened her eyes to the fact that God loves her and wants to give her the gift of salvation which leads to eternal life.

Today, Jesus is offering you what He offered her–living water which springs up to eternal life.  All you have to do is drink.

Sources:  Wikipedia; Bible Gateway; Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, pp. 626, 808; Got Questions; Christianity;

Parenting

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye – Psalm 32:8

From the time we are born, our parents are there to care for us.  We don’t have to worry about anything.  They provide for our basic needs.  As we get older, they offer us guidance and instructions.  We listen to them most of the time because we know that they want what is best for us.  There are times when we want to do things our way and soon learn that our way is not best and can lead us into trouble.

Our parents God’s stewards.  He entrusted them with the awesome responsibility of raising us to be godly examples to others.  It is no different from the parents we read of in the Bible like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jesse and his wife, Zechariah and Elizabeth and Joseph and Mary.  Some of them made mistakes but they trusted in God to help them to raise their children.

God is our Father and like our earthly parents, He takes care of us.  He provides for us, teaches and disciplines us.  Moses told the children of Israel, “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you” (Deuteronomy 8:5).  When God does this, it isn’t pleasant, of course just like when our parents spank us or punish us, it feels terrible.  It’s painful but they do it because it’s necessary.  They want to do away with a behavior or habit that is problematic.  According to King Solomon, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).  Although it may be painful for us, God’s chastisement is motivated by love.  “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).

Parents raise their children as best as they can.  They train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).   Some children turn out well while others don’t.  Don’t be discouraged when you’re having problems with your child.  Continue doing your best and pray.  I’ve been having issues with my son lately and this morning when I was worshipping, the Lord put it in my heart to sing, What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  These words spoke to me, giving me comfort and encouragement:

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Discipline is also an expression of love, although, the child might not think so at the time but in retrospect, he or she will see that their parents acted out of love and for their best interest.  As parents, we are guides, teachers, disciplinarians, stewards and role models.  We have to reflect God’s character if we want our children to be like Him.  Parenting is a huge responsibility but it is also a blessing and a privilege.

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Hymnal Net

What Do You See?

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139:14

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What do you see when you look into the mirror?  A tired face?  Eyes filled with sadness?  A furrowed brow caused by stress?  More wrinkles?  Frowns instead of smiles?  Faded beauty?  Diminishing youth?  Or do you see what God sees?  Someone created in His image?

Did you know that He formed your inward parts and covered you in your mother’s womb?  Before you were even formed, He saw your substance.  He saw the woman and man your were meant to be.  He knew the accomplishments you would make, the decisions you would weigh and the mistakes you would make.  Nothing you do can diminish His love for you.  David knew this and that’s why he concluded, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17).

God loves you with an everlasting love.  He said, Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3).  You are His masterpiece.  The apple of His eye.  When you see yourself the way He does, you will fully understand why He were are so precious to Him.

Delight in the Lord

I had a dream one morning in which someone said, “Give God your best and He will do the rest.”  I mentioned this to my husband, Dave and he thought of what it said about the desires of our hearts in Psalm 37 which I looked up.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.  Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (verses 4, 5, 7).

I believe that this is God’s message to Dave and me.  We are to give ourselves completely to Him and He will take care of everything else.  It takes a lot of faith and strength to wait on the Lord as He works things out for us, especially during those times when the light at the tunnel seems to be eluding us.  But, we remember His faithfulness to us in the past and how He brought us through then.  And we think, why should this time be any different?  So, we pray, rest and wait.

Thank You, Lord, for this message and the reassurance that You will take care of us.  All we have to do is delight ourselves in You, commit our ways to You and trust You.

The Queen of Soul

“When God loves you, what can be better than that?” ~ Aretha Franklin

There is so much I could write about Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul but I decided to concentrate on the highlights of her music career and her “social and civic contributions”.

Aretha Louise Franklin was  born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin was a Baptist minister and a circuit preacher while her mother, Barbara was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.  Theirs was a troubled marriage because of her father’s philandering.  The couple separated in 1948.  Before her tenth birthday, Aretha’s mother died from a heart attack.  Several women, including her grandmother and Mahalia Jackson alternated helping the children at the Franklin home and it was during this time that Aretha learned to play the piano by ear.

Following her mother’s death, Aretha began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me.”  When she was twelve, her father became her manager, bringing her on the road with him during his “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches.

Her music career found Aretha signing on with big recording giants such as Columbia, Atlantic, Arista and RCA.  She belted out many hits such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer, Hold On, I’m Comin’.  And she thrilled the younger generation with Who’s Zoomin’ Who and Freeway of Love.  Hearing Freeway of Love transported me back to the ’80s which were a great time for me when I was living in New York.  And who could forget I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, her number one duet with George Michael?

In 1980, she gave a command performance before the Queen at Prince Albert’s Hall, in 2009 she sang at the 2009 inauguration of President Barak Obama.  In the following year, she received an honorary degree from Yale University.  In 2014, she received honorary degrees from Harvard University and New York University as well as honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Pennsylvania, Berkeley, New England Conservatory of Music and University of Michigan.  She was the recipient of other honors such as Doctor of Humane Letters and Doctor of Law degree.

Aretha was dubbed “one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole.  More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged.”  Her voice was described as being a “powerful mezzo-soprano voice” and she was praised for her arrangements and interpretations of other artists’ hit songs.  At the age of 14 when she recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, Jerry Wexler declared that her voice “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.”  A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.  Aretha’s explanation for that would have likely been, “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”

Singing and music weren’t her only passions.  Aretha was a civil rights activist.  Throughout her life, she was involved in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights.  When Angela Davis was jailed in 1970, Aretha told Jet Magazine that, “Angela Davis must go free… Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”  Not surprisingly, her songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change.  She was also a staunch supporter of Native American rights, supporting their struggles worldwide and movements which fostered their cultural rights.

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right” ~ Aretha Franklin

It was a sad day when it was announced that the great Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.  She leaves behind a world touched by her music, her incomparable voice and her effortless work in championing human, civil and women’s rights.  She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  In 2013, she was again ranked first in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings.  Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope” – President Obama in response to her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Notes to Women salutes the woman with “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America” and a “symbol of black equality”  She was an inspiration not only for those in the music world but for all of us.  Although she is no longer with us, her music, her legacy will live on.

“It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job” ~ Aretha Franklin

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Sources:  Wikipedia; Brainy Quote

God Rejoices

Zephaniah 3

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God is such a wonderful and amazing God.  He warns people (the Israelites), gives them time to reflect then repent, judges them when they don’t repent and then restores them.  We don’t deserve His mercy but God is a God of love.  He regathers, redeems and restores the remnant.  Their response is to rejoice in their Redeemer.

My favorite verses are:  Zion, let not your hands be weak.  The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” 

Imagine God Almighty rejoicing over you with gladness and singing! 

Source:  Bible Gateway