Friday, November 30, 2012

Gratitude or Grumbling, Part II

As today is the last day of November, I wanted to do an update on my "Gratitude or
Grumbling" post from Tuesday. I had this "funny feeling" when I posted it that I was going to be tested on it. Well, let's just say the last couple days have been kind of rough for me. The enemy has been taunting me with "Look at how much good that did you!" admidst days of unresolved issues in my life.

I know condemnation is not of the Lord. (Romans 8:1) But I was feeling pretty condemned, truthfully. But I have this, this only as I cling to the Lord: He is not in the business of giving up on His kids.( Hebrews 13:5) He loves me unconditionally. (John 3: 16) God's love is not at all like human love.(I John 3:1) That is all I need, period.

He demonstrated that love when He died on that cross for me.(I John 4: 10) He knows my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. (Romans 7: 15) I am still thanking Him for things, even things that are hurting. The promise in Romans 8:28 still says, if I love Him, He will work all the tattered pieces of my life together for good. He promised. He does not lie. He does not change.(Malachi 3:6) You think I am writing this just for readers? I speak to myself first!

Sometimes, when you walk around, did you ever notice all the broken people you see? Those people that are "down on their luck," so to speak? One guy I see around the neighborhood has some kind of problem, he talks to himself incoherently and to others the same way. Most people hurry away from him. Jesus, If Jesus saw that man today, all scruffy and unkempt,He'd find a way to graciously communicate with him. Another old fellow walks down the street very slowly with a cane. He can even hold up traffic at times. One time I helped him with a door or something. I was tempted to be impatient because he was so slow. Then he told me he was blind in his one eye. He may have been injured in battle sometime. All of a sudden, I was ashamed of myself for being so thoughtless and uncaring. Jesus has all the time in the universe to care about people's needs....But my window of opportunity to show love and do good is fleeting quickly. In fact, Christ lived outside of time, in eternity. That's why He never was flustered and frantic like we are.

These two men reflect beatings on the outside, but we all have them, whether inside or out. Though we don't show them, we are just as roughed up as they are, even though many people might not want to admit it. Though my troubles rose rapidly to the surface after I set my mind to think gratefully, I am identified with the Greatest Victor in the Universe. (I Cor. 15: 57) If I set my mind on the things above, not the things of earth (Col. 3:1-2), my heart will remain grateful. If I fail, I pick myself back up again, confess it to God, for He will forgive and cleanse me up to "70 x 7" (meaning an infinite amount.) What more could a daughter of God want?

Thank you Lord for even allowing the hard trials into my life so that I will run back to You. Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grumbling or Gratitude?

A thought popped into my head the other day, amongst the millions of irrelevant or harmful ones that daily course into my brain. I know it was a God thought. I have done a lot of "gritching" lately. (Combo of the word "griping" and the word for a female dog.) I have issues with chronic pain which often puts me into a less than cheerful state. Often times where I live, the weather is gloomy, and it affects me. There have been ongoing trials in my life and I tend to feel sorry for myself. I am ashamed to admit these things because I have the Word of God available to me for access 24/7. No excuse.

The thought was: What if every time I grumbled I would immediately replace it by giving thanks? Paul tells us:

1Th 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

He did not say, in some things did he? Well then, I guess this could include when things don't go my way, like when I repeatedly drop things and have to bend over and get them, even if I hurt. Or if a situation doesn't change, even if I have prayed for years about it. Or if I see chaos everywhere. No, God is sovereign. He knows every detail of my life, and if I love Him (and ONLY if I love Him) He promises to work every apparently "bad" situation in my life for the good. (Romans 8:28) In that I can truly rejoice!!

Sometime thoughts come in and they go out just as quickly. But this one has managed to stay with me for a little while now. It is my prayer that it will not leave me. (That is, the giving of thanks whenever I find myself getting mad, which I admit, is often.)

I was so blessed at church this Sunday, a guest pastor stood in for our regular pastor, both of whom are tremendous teachers of the Word. He mentioned the Beatitudes. When Jesus talked about the poor in spirit being blessed in Matthew 5: 3, He used the word "ptochos." It is from the Strong's Lexicon of the Greek New Testament #4434. It means:

1) reduced to beggary, begging, asking alms

2) destitute of wealth, influence, position, honour

a) lowly, afflicted, destitute of the Christian virtues and eternal riches

b) helpless, powerless to accomplish an end

c) poor, needy

3) lacking in anything

a) as respects their spirit

(I copied and pasted this from the Blue Letter Bible website, a free online Bible study source.)

We have to see ourselves that way. It was the first Beatitude! Blessed are we when we see ourself that way! The Pharisees hated Jesus because they thought they were respectable. When we realize grace is ALL OF GOD and none of us, then we really can thank Him for everything.

Jam 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

That includes our little everyday trials. God wants to reward us in eternity. If we can bless and thank Him instead of grumbling, He will be able to do so. This is just an insight He has shown me. Yesterday I was working around the house pretty hard and everytime something happened that tempted me to get mad, I was reminded to thank Him and it made all the difference. I didn't do it perfectly, not at all, but it did make such a change in my attitude and outlook. It energized me.

Oh Lord, my prayer is that I will not forget this. I am daily bombarded with information overload. Bring this to my remembrance today and everyday, Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Give Thanks, for He is Good!

We are instructed to give thanks in all things. To many of us, maybe it seems like there is not a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving compared to past years. Personal trials seem to go on forever, the economic and moral decline of a once great nation, the disasters that are hitting this planet without letup. Every night on the news you hear of murders like it was nothing anymore. What has happened to law and order in our society? Everything is breaking down.

But wait! God has not forsaken us has He? (Hebrews 13:5) No, I still have so much to be thankful for. For in these things, it forces me to run for Him like never before. To take refuge before the coming storm. (And there is one coming.)

Thank you God, I have food for tomorrow's feast.

Now, I am not going overboard with dinner. I have reached a point where that's all just too much now. Turkey and a couple side-dishes, and a wheat free pumpkin pie. Surely that is an overwhelming gift that millions of poor people on this planet would be thrilled to receive.

The rest of the holidays? I can't get into Black Friday shopping. To tell you the truth, I love celebrating the Incarnation, but the mass hysteria of gift-giving gets less and less appealing each year. It reminds me of desperation.
People desperately trying to find happiness in the way of buying presents for each other. That's not what its all about. There's got to be a simpler way...

I'll give a few small gifts, to be sure. But I just can't go into a shopping frenzy, not with what is happening all over the planet. Wars, starvation, homelessness...but most of all- people dying and going into an eternity without Christ. That is the biggest tragedy of all.

Still, in the midst of sorrow and pain in the world, I know God's love manages to conquer in unexpected ways. I was privileged to share a couple of shoeboxes with Operation Christmas Child. Children that have nothing learn about Jesus through this shoebox ministry. My friends Jane and John lay down their lives at a Methodist church nearby to do their part to make this a reality for many children. They receive an awesome blessing in return. They give thanks they can participate in this! It is a blessing to give to others. Together, with many others, thousands upon thousands of children will receive gifts, but more importantly, hear about Jesus.

Whenever I am overcome by sorrow, when I lift my voice to praise my God it always lifts my spirit. Praising Him is for God's benefit but it benefits us too. It takes our eyes off ourselves and our problems, and raises them to God and His infinite abilites, His "dunamis" power, that can solve any "little" problem I may have. My afflictions suddenly don't seem so big anymore...

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy...
For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry with goodness."

Psalm 107: 1,2,9

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Passing of a Sweet and Gentle Man

I had posted on my blog here a few weeks back about the death of my blessed neighbor, Mrs. Anna Paraskos, who died from liver cancer on October 7, 2012. Well, there is much more to the story. It wasn't just that she had died, causing great grief to her four lovely daughters and grandchildren that "rose up and called her blessed.". (Proverbs 31: 28) No, she left a gaping hole in the heart of her beloved husband John.

I didn't know Mr.P. as well as I had known his wife. What I did know about him was this: that he was a very smart man with a good job working for Chevron that got him transferred from Pittsburgh to California. In my post previously, I thought the family had left earlier than they did, apparently it was not until the 1980's. Mr. Paraskos and his family brought blessings to the families of Willoughby Road, there in the North Hills of Pittsburgh.

Every time I saw him, he had a smile on his face. He was soft-spoken and many times when I visited their house he would be sitting on the couch with a Bible in his hand. I know they attended a Baptist church. One summer I attended their vacation Bible school and they drove me back and forth. I was delighted to learn more about Jesus there. I felt at home in their house too. They were down to earth people, they carried no airs about them, everyone was welcome there.

I don't know the complete story but suffice it to say Mr. P suffered from serious health conditions for a long time. While his wife was in her end stages of her death shadowed valley, he also was in hospice. He was on a ventilator for quite some time. The daughters posted about his condition and we prayed that he might rally and pull through. Like the Apostle Paul, they asked that they would be spared "sorrow upon sorrow." (Philippians 2: 27)

God called Mr. P home only twenty-five days after the death of his wife on November 2, 2012. Perhaps her death had caused him so much grief that he just couldn't fight anymore. I like to think that God took Mr. P to His side before more terrible things happen on this earth. We can rejoice in the fact that precious to God was the death of his saint, Mr. John Paraskos. (Psalm 116:15)

I can't imagine the girls' pain. What faithful daughters they all were. They were right there when their parents hour of need came. I hope to be like them when the time comes for me with my parents. And the tribute they gave to their parents definitely shows what kind of parents they were. Loving. God-fearing. Gracious. Faithful.

Heather, the youngest daughter, shared Mr. P's dying words. He said: "There she is! Out of the ground and then Elohim." He also spoke final words in Hebrew. I have heard it said, that when you live well, then you die well. Mr. P, on his deathbed, was filled with peace. He was ready to join his beloved wife, to behold His Lord. (I John 5: 4)

It is sad for us, today, because the world is without a sweet, gentle hero like Mr. John Paraskos. May his legacy live on in the lives of his children and grandchildren,and generations following after, blessed by their association with this kind, unassuming servant of Christ.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Who is our Hope in, Anyway?

Like many of you, I watched the returns last night with a sick feeling in my stomach.
I try not to be political in my postings, but let's just say things weren't going the way I had hoped. My headache got worse and worse. Suddenly, when they switched to the local news at 11pm it was all over.

I felt this election was the most important one of my life, and yet, God is sovereign in the affairs of all mankind. Is that true or isn't it? When the prophet Daniel was interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, he told him:

"That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men,
Gives it to whomever He will,
And sets it over the lowest of men." Daniel 4: 17b

So today, I am choosing to go on with my life, focusing my hope entirely on the Hope that is secure and will not change. I read today in the Word one of the very last verses given to the Jews before the New Testament canon was given. In the book of Malachi, chapter 3 verse 6, we read:

"For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob."

Thank God! He doesn't change! Everything else is all around us is crumbling around us. What can we rely on? Job security? No. Money in the bank? No. The stock market? No. Gold? no. Even people we thought we could trust? No. We have one thing, one thing only, that we can run to:

"looking unto JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God..." Hebrews 12:2

He promises never, ever to leave us: "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13: 5

And just to show that Jesus doesn't change either: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13: 8

Turn to Him today, while you can. He will not turn you away.(John 10:28) He is in the business of restoring broken, beat up lives like yours and mine. No matter what your political affiliation or how you voted, it doesn't matter, Jesus doesn't care about that, He just wants you to run to His shelter before it is too late.