Majesty, Monarchy and Sovereignty

Majesty, Monarchy and Sovereignty

The Western world has been closely following the funeral proceedings for Queen Elizabeth, the longest reinging Monarch of the British Empire. The costumes, choreographed pageantry and traditions have held us captivated because they date back hundreds of years. Elizabeth stood for continuity and tradition even though she withstood a tremendous amount of change within her family, her country and the world. Even her kingdom has become smaller through the decades since 1953.

A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state for life or until abdication. The succession in many cases is heriditary. It was the most common form of government until the 20th century. Most of todays modern monarchies tend to be constitutional in nature that exercize limited or no political power.

I learned that only the Queen (or now King) is referred to as Her Majesty. All other royalty are calledYour Highness . Majesty is a noun meaning regal, lofty or imposing grandeur, the supreme greatness or authority. Although Queen Elizabeth was sovereign (the only one, highest rank of the monarchy) she too bowed before the God of heaven and earth recognizing that He placed her in her position and she had a duty and responsibility to rule wisely.

Besides the crown, the other objects that signify the British monarchy are the Orb and Scepter which were crafted in 1661. The Orb is an eleven inch hollow gold sphere with a cross on top representing the monarch’s power in the Christian world. The three foot long Scepter represents the temporal power of the king or queen in the secular world and is associated with good governance.

What is the biblical definition of sovereignty? The bible teaches us that God is the source of all creation and that all things come from and depend upon God. Sovereignty means that God as ruler of the Universe, is free to do whatever he wants. He is not bound or limited by the dictates of his creation or created beings. He is in complete control over everything that happens here on this earth and throughout the universe. He is Lord of heaven and earth and cannot be opposed. He does not change. God is Omnicient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent. Read Psalm 139

Colossians 1:16–17 (ESV)
16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jeremiah 32:17 (ESV)
17‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

What a comfort to know that God loved us so much He sent His Son to restore the broken relationship between us. The Sovereign God of the universe promises to be with us, guide us and give us strength to make wise decisions every day. He holds us together when we feel like everything around us is falling apart. Our God is an awesome God.

Beauty in Hard Places

Beauty in Hard Places

No one would argue that circumstances in life can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. What do you look for and where do you turn when everything that was comfortable and secure becomes hard and unknown? I often find myself looking at nature and listening to music to find the beauty around me and reassurance that God is in control.

The saguaro (/səˈwɑːroʊ/ ) cactus can grow to be over 12 meters (40 feet) tall. It is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican state of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California. The saguaro blossom is the state wildflower of Arizona.

Saguaros have a relatively long lifespan, often exceeding 150 years. Arms are developed to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity, as more apices lead to more flowers and fruit. A saguaro can absorb and store considerable amounts of rainwater, visibly expanding in the process, while slowly using the stored water as needed. This characteristic enables the saguaro to survive during periods of drought. Temperatures in the Sonoran dessert can reach 130 degrees in the shade and in winter 52 degrees at night.

Saguaros have been a source of food and shelter for humans for thousands of years despite the harsh conditions. Their sweet red fleshed fruits are turned into syrup by native peoples. Their ribs are used as building materials in the wood-poor deserts. (information from wikipedia)

The saguaros are only one example of God’s provision despite hard circumstances. The prophet Habakkuk was prophesying just before the Israelites were taken into Babylonian captivity as judgement for turning away from God. In this book we see a man who fully trusted God even though he was perplexed.

Habakkuk 3:17–19 (ESV)
17Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
18yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

The book of Philippians written by the apostle Paul is a letter filled with faith, joy and peace. He is so full of confidence and encouragement that it would be easy for us to forget he was writting from a Roman prison. What was his secret?

Philippians 4:11–13 (ESV)
11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

This petunia grew onto my patio this summer. I never watered it and despite three heat waves and drought it bloomed. A seed had found an unlikely place to plant itself and I left it alone while God did the rest. Beauty in a hard place. A reminder of God’s goodness and provision.

We always have a choice in how we respond to difficulties. We can have a pity party, lash out at others and even become angry and bitter. Or we can choose to seek God for comfort, strenghth and wisdom. It is easy to become discouraged when we can’t see how God is working. But we have many examples of growth and even thriving in hard places written in the Bible for us to learn from. We call them hereos of the faith but they were people just like us; Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Daniel and the early apostles are only a few. Take heart my friend and look for the good while holding on in confidence to the One Who knows you, hears your prayer and loves you with an everlasting love.

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Perils of Social Media

Perils of Social Media

I have to confess that I’ve found myself wasting way too much time scrolling through Facebook posts.  I casually pick up my phone and look to see local news, friendly posts and then something catches my eye like “Weird Tales From the Woods” and I get sucked in. It’s like falling into a black hole and waking up to find I’ve been drifting for a half an hour or more.  What happened and where did the time go?  It definitely becomes more of a problem when I am bored or feeling lonely.

woman-3083376__340 It’s a waste of time to engage in political or ethical discussions which then become debates that spiral into pointless arguments. Warning alarms go off in my head telling me to EXIT quickly. )  I had to unfriend one person because I  thought I was having a discussion with him when two of his “Facebook friends” jumped in and started to verbally attack me when they realized I was a person of faith.

“… guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge… ”     1 Tim 6:20 (NLT)

I was not raised in an era of instant technology and information. I have learned the hard way to be very careful when commenting on a friends’ post or re-post.  The definition for discernment is:     1. the ability to judge well.   2.   (in Christian contexts) perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.

Social Media can be such a wonderful thing. I love seeing pictures of friends and their texting-1490691_960_720children, grandchildren, celebrations and travels. I appreciate the encouragement of a shared scripture verse or sermon link. It is exciting to read updates from missionaries and ministries we prayerfully and financially support. Multimedia is such an important part of our everyday it would be hard to live without it.  Slowly I have become more aware of the dangers of time thieves, half-truths, one-sided news and opinions. I have also blocked acquaintances that share photos or memes that I don’t care to see!

Did you know that the Bible gives guidelines for what we view in any kind of media even though It was written thousands of years ago?!

23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
24 Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.
25 Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.26 Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.27 Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.                              Prov 4:23-27 (NLT)

We need to guard our hearts, minds and time. An old computer expression was “garbage in – garbage out” – you need to have clean programming for the system to work properly.  Sometimes its a matter of training and discipline. God has given us passages like this one to use as a guideline.

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.           Phil 4:8-9 (NLT)

As for me, I am going to limit my time on Facebook. I need to avoid the click-bait sites . I will try to stay away from the  political blah blah blah and discern what is true from other sources.  I really do want to use my time wisely and protect my heart. I encourage you to use the verses above to help you gain a new perspective on  the use of social media and Christian living today.

words

A Diamond in the Rough

A Diamond  in the Rough
Quartz

When our daughter was in Middle School she had an interest in rock collecting so for Christmas we gave her a rock tumbling machine. Her kit came with a small variety of geodes.  The machines they design for kids are very noisy and take what seems like an eternity to semi polish a stone. Geodes are rocks that are plain on the outside but can have beautiful crystals on the inside. These polished stones can be found at rock shops all over the country.

The world’s love of diamonds had its start in India, where diamonds were gathered from the country’s rivers and streams. Some historians estimate that India was trading in diamonds as early as the fourth century BC.  Today diamonds are plentiful compared to other precious gemstones and can be found all over the earth.

A diamond has to go through a lot before it reaches the jeweler’s display case. It forms deep in the earth under extreme heat and pressure. It’s ejected violently upward until it arrives at or near the earth’s surface. It’s forced from its hiding place by nature or by man. Then it’s cleaved and cut and polished until its natural beauty shines through.

World’s largest uncut diamond auctioned in 2016

Diamonds are then graded in four categories to measure value. First by Carat or it’s size and secondly by the Cut which displays the jewelers skill in making the stone sparkle. The next grade is grade for lack of Color, clear being the best . All diamonds have an inclusion or tiny unique imperfection developed when it was forming , like a birthmark, which determines Carity. The Master Jeweler can tell the difference between a diamond and quartz and sees the microscopic details within.

Industry statistics indicate that approximately one ton of earth has to be moved for every one carat of diamond that is mined, so in the case of the 1.60 carat diamond about 4.25 tons of earth were moved… That’s a lot of dirt for a tiny rock. (from pricescope.com) Only 30% of diamonds mined are used for jewelry the rest are used in industry for drilling, grinding and cutting among other uses.

We are all like a “diamond in the rough”. He sees our imperfections and knows our value and uniqueness. He already knew all about us before we were born and has a purpose for our lives.

Psalm 139:15–16 (ESV)
15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.16Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

God is Sovereign and wants to mold us into the person we should be. But like a potter with a lump of clay, we are a work in progress. Some people require a lot more “dirt” to be removed before moving on to the next step but that too is part of the process. (sorry no verses for cutting a diamond)

Jeremiah 18:2–4 (ESV)
2“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

When we are going through difficult circumstances of any kind it is easy to question what God is doing. But He ultimately desires the best for us. He will use the pressure of trials to help us grow in faith and resilience. We will shine brighter in our testimony because He puts the sparkle of love, joy and peace into our lives.

Zechariah 13:9 (ESV)
9And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are m
y people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ”



When Life Doesn’t Seem Fair

When Life Doesn’t Seem Fair

Often when I hear news of someone’s else’s misfortune or I am going through a difficult time myself I think, ” life just isn’t fair”. When my kids were growing up sometimes they thought we parents weren’t being fair. But God never promised life would be. Does that surprise you? Jesus told His disciples that there would be trouble in the world. Reading the scriptures gives us a different perspective. I am using a different version of the bible in my blog today because we can discover deeper meaning by using different translations.

Psalm 37: 1–9 (Christian Standard Bible) A Psalm Of David.

1Do not be agitated by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong. – The ESV version uses the word fret. The verb fret means to be constantly or visibly worried or anxious. Why should we not fret? 2For they wither quickly like grass and wilt like tender green plants. – it’s only temporary. Some of the synonyms for fret are agonize, mope, make a fuss, grumble and eat your heart out. It sounds like fretting would make us miserable and those around us also.

3Trust in the Lord and do what is good – we have a choice to do what is good and not grumble or try to get even. ;dwell in the land and live securely. – The ESV tells us to befriend faithfulness but my NIV uses the phrase “cultivate faithfulness” in place of live securely. Did you ever think about cultivating faithfulness? The word cultivate is a gardening term but also means to acquire or develop a quality, sentiment, or skill.

4Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. – This verse does not contain a promise to give us everything we want because you are such a good Christian. Psalm 119 exhorts us to delight in God’s word and Jesus told us to pray according to the Father’s will. When our desires are aligned with his He does bless abundantly.

5Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act, To commit to something or someone is to pledge or bind – devote, apply or dedicate. When we do this, we let God be God and trust Him take care of the problem. That trust will take a weight off of our mind by replacing it with peace.

6making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Do you remember the old song “This Little Light of Mine”? The light of Jesus in our lives is hidden when we are agitated and worried.

7Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for him; I have a hard time being silent and still. To be honest, sometimes I like to explain to God how He should fix problems. do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the person who carries out evil plans. I remember my mother saying, “you are only responsible for your own actions. God will take care of the rest.” I should be silent more often.

8Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. How did anger end up here when we are talking about worry? Often in the medical arena an agitated person (for whatever reason) necessitates de-escalation techniques before violence occurs. When we allow worry to control us we can end up in the trap of entitlement and feeling like a victim. Our negative feelings and thoughts can get out of hand if we do not give them over to God.

9For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Our hope is not here on this planet. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and an eternity with Him.

Please read the rest of this Psalm on your own remembering that …v.24 The Lord is the One who holds your hand and choose wisdom over worry.

What is Your Moral Compass?

What is Your Moral Compass?

I believe our society is losing something extremely valuable to the wholeness and vitality that makes us unique and united. No not the honor due to the American flag , that is only a symptom of the problem. We have lost our moral compass. America was founded on the Judeo Christian ethics that support the right to life ( all life is valuable in God’s eyes from conception to death) liberty (the freedom to choose how/where you will live ) and the pursuit ( the right to achieve one’s personal goals) of happiness.

The definition of morality In the American Dictionary is, ” a personal set of standards for good or bad behavior and character, or the quality of being right and honest.”

In my research I found that people have different definitions for their personal moral compass. Our former first lady, Michelle Obama, was quoted as saying, “I’ve learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values and follow my own moral compass then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.” That sounds all well and good except that as first lady the country had certain expectations as to her moral character and behavior. I have heard people say “well, that is my truth“. What does that even mean? If my truth says my car will go 40 miles on one gallon but the manufacturer states that it will only go 24 mpg then when I ignore that little blinking warning light – I will run out of gas. That is truth.

In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket, the genetically engineered racoon, is talking to Nova Corps and asks, “What if I see something that I wanna take and it belongs to someone else?” “Then you will be arrested.” “But what if I want it more than the person who has it?” “Still illegal.” “That doesn’t follow. No, I want it more, sir.” It was humorous because most people share the basic moral belief that stealing is wrong.

The ten commandments, also known as the Decalogue, are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship that play a fundamental role in Judaism and Christianity. God gave His people these rules to help make them a separate and holy people but it does not take away the basic problem of sin. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for breaking God’s law on the cross.

Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Dennis Prager put it this way, “The moral north reads south and the moral south reads north. Much of the world’s moral compass is broken.”

Jeremiah 17:9 states, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it

Since we naturally tend to be selfish and self-centered God has given believers His Word and an internal spiritual compass – The Spirit of Truth.

How do we find TRUTH? John 14:6–7 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Our internal compass John 15:26
26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Our Guide 2 Timothy 3:16–17
16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Put God First Proverbs 3:5–7
5Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
7Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

Everyday is a new beginning. I hope you choose Gods’ moral compass that always points true north.