Life is a Mist…

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James 4:14   Life is a mist

For nine years I was blessed to have a job where I lived on an island for the summer months, and when your home is surrounded by water, it makes for many misty days on Mount Desert Island in Maine. On this particular day I remember driving down the Loop road in Acadia National Park and literally slamming my brakes to pull off road to watch this phenomena of  rising mists in front of the mountain cliffs called the Precipice. As these mists slowly rose to the summit of the mountain, they quickly disappeared into the atmosphere. I immediately thought to myself, “That’s exactly what James wanted to illustrate to us,” when he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen verse 14 in Chapter 4. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

How many of us actually live our lives with this scripture in mind though? Aren’t we all guilty of thinking that we are going to live to a ripe old age and spend our years accomplishing the things that we have on our “bucket list?” When we are younger, some things we think about are going to college, beginning a career, getting married and raising a family. As we get older, our goals are usually to buy a nice home, a nice car, start a successful business, travel to favorite countries on vacation, and then perhaps retire to live a life of ease and comfort.

Far too often we live our lives as if this earth was our true home, instead of living as temporary sojourners passing through on the way to eternity. Maybe we are such fleshly creatures that we can’t possibly even imagine living that way?

I know that is how I lived before chronic illness consumed my world. I was always making my own plans, and often did not even take the time to ask God if it was His will for me. It’s not that I didn’t love Jesus, or care about what He desired, but when your body is in good health, you just sort of go about your own way, and do your own thing every day. Following is a list of a few of the ways God has taught me to live on earth with eternity as the main purpose for existing.

* I no longer feel the need to hold onto my possessions. In fact, my latest move was reduced to a carload instead of a moving truck. What is the point of keeping a bunch of things that are just going to burn anyway? My entire retirement savings is gone now due to my illness, so I know more than ever how quickly money can disappear. It sounds strange, but it frees you from financial worries when you are broke. People have been so gracious to me, which in turns releases God’s blessings into other lives!

* Illness has taught me to love others deeply, because I know I may not have tomorrow to show them love again on this earth. It also makes it much easier to forgive others for any pain or sadness they caused me.  I must strive to be a forgiving person if I want to be forgiven by my Father in heaven.

* Life truly is a mist, and is far too short to carry heavy loads or baggage from my past life. I do not want to leave this world with regrets about anything from my time on Earth

The biggest lesson God has taught me during this trial called chronic illness, is to keep my eyes always on the sky, watching and waiting expectantly for the return of my precious Savior Jesus Christ! The sicker I become, the more I look forward to spending forever with Him!

 

  • This devotional is dedicated to the memory of my friend and teacher Jim Wischer, and to his family and fellow servants who daily risk their lives in the service of others. Jim loved to illustrate this passage of scripture with an aerosol spray can when he was teaching from the Bible. See you soon brother, you are dearly missed. Well done, good and faithful servant!

Our Incredible Worth!

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Our Incredible Worth ~ Psalm 139

     Who among us has never gone through a period of our lives when we felt worthless? Maybe we were treated harshly by another person, or abandoned by a loved one, or perhaps we were deceived into believing the lies of this world and the enemy of our soul. Humans can be very cruel to one another, and for reasons I will never fully understand, these are the things that seem to define who we become and our worth to others.  People tend to judge another’s value based upon things like their job performance, wealth, fame, cars, houses, jewels, and physical appearance. For centuries now the world has rapidly headed in the direction of placing a higher value on things, rather than on the incredible worth and potential that God sees in human beings. 

From the moment of conception in the womb, until the very last breath we take on this earth, we are the apple of our Father’s eye and the only thing that really matters to Him. We are made in His image, we are the chief desire of His heart, we were thought of by Him before He even created the world, and our lives and times were designed and planned by Him.

We are so valuable to God that all the wealth of the world, in all of time’s existence, does not matter to Him, because we are His greatest treasure. Whatever we have done in the past, the many times we have failed Him or whatever our position in the world, it doesn’t mean anything to Him. He loves us profoundly and wants to give us all the blessings of His kingdom now, and bring us to live with Him forever after our time on earth is done. His desire is for us to recognize Him as our Father in Heaven and the giver of eternal life to all who want it. He delights in us and desires to help us become more like His Son Jesus. He wants to help us get rid of all the sin and pride in our lives, because He knows that “self” is our worst enemy, and it deprives us of our great inheritance in Christ

When I meditate on how much Jesus loves people, I feel not only grateful, but am still amazed to realize that my powerful Creator willingly left the perfection of Heaven to become a man and live on earth with people like me who would one day reject Him and crucify Him on a cross. He did this because of our great value to Him and His desire to save us from our sins. The worth of the human soul can only be valued by the light reflected from His sacrifice on the cross. Everything in existence pales in comparison with knowing this great love of God!

I found this poem a long time ago and have always loved the way the writer describes the vast love of God for people.

253.6  ”Could we with ink the ocean fill,
Were every blade of grass a quill,
Were the world of parchment made,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor would the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”[1]

     God Almighty has a purpose and a plan for every person He has ever created. Our value to Him is incalculable, and the value He places on us should be applied to all people. As Christians we need to stand for up for the Biblical truths of the value of life including those who are deemed worthless to this world. Let us be clear in our declaration of the value of those who are unwanted, unprotected, weak, elderly, afflicted and unborn.

[1] A Treasury of Jewish Quotations 1996   Joseph L. Baron – Meir Ben Isaac  Nehorai  Akdamut c. 1060.

 

A Mother’s Love

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Psalm 131~ A Mother’s Love

I have been thinking about the incredible worth of Mothers lately, and not just my own Mom, but also the “surrogate moms” who are wonderful and precious friends who share their wisdom, and model how to endure difficult situations in this life. Even though this devotional has been inspired by several moms in my own family, it definitely applies to many of the women that I have known and loved in my life.  Each year we celebrate Mothers for one special day, in order to honor them and thank them for their efforts in giving us life, raising their families, and continually supporting them, but the reality is we should do this every day that we are here.

Being a mother is an incredibly important role that God gives to many women, and His word tells us that we are to love our children because they are God’s gift to us. The Greek word that is used in the New Testament of the Bible for a Mother’s special kind of love is philoteknos. The connotation of this word is that a Mother is not only to meet the needs of her children, but to affectionately embrace, nurture, and care for them.

A mother’s love for her children is eternal, even when we, as finite human beings are not. There is nothing that can change a Mother’s undying love for her offspring, and as you can see in my photo, this type of love and nurturing also holds true for the animal and bird kingdoms. This mother Mute Swan is standing guard over her five cygnets and she is very alert while they are napping; (well, most of them are napping anyway.) There is no enemy too formidable that a mother swan will not take her stand against it. There are numerous reports of swans attacking people that have received cuts, bruises, and broken bones. One person was drowned when they were boating and they got too close to a swan nest.

Swans mate for life and one man who spent a year photographing and following a swan family tells the story of a female he named “Kay,” finding one of her cygnets that had died, and the mother actually buried her baby in the reeds, covering its body with vegetation.[1]  This “human-like” behavior has also been recorded with other species that mate for life.

No matter if the species is human, animal, or bird, and no matter what the race, or religion or the area of the world in which they live there is a universal thread that transcends all when it comes to the beautiful bond between a mother and her offspring. The unconditional and undying love of a mother for her children is such a beautiful thing to behold, and is a reflection of the tender love that God has towards all people. From cradle to grave, the intuition and sensitivity that God has endowed mothers with, is the very thing that compels them to go the extra mile for their beloved children. They will endure 9 months of pregnancy, stay up all night to nurse a hungry infant, or suffer lack of sleep to rock a sick child, or advocate for a teenager who has gotten into trouble, and show compassion and acceptance towards their adult children who have gone astray and have been captivated by the things of this world. Mothers are fiercely loyal towards their children, and even towards other children who do not belong to them biologically. Mothers don’t consider motherhood to be a menial or unpleasant task to perform, but instead they embrace it and consider it to be the most important job and purpose for their life. Mothering does change and evolve over time, but its capacity to encourage, nurture, love and unselfishly give of oneself never ceases. I hope that you have been blessed to know unconditional love from your own mother, but if you haven’t please know that the most perfect and precious “mothering” love you can ever know is freely offered to you from God Almighty and he gives generously to all who ask. I have decided to finish this with some inspirational quotes about mothers that I found on the internet. I hope you enjoy reading them and they remind you every day what an incredible blessing it is to be a mother.

“I looked at this tiny, perfect creature and it was as though a light switch had been turned on.  A great rush of love flooded out of me.”-Madeleine L’Engle

“What a mother sings to the cradle goes all the way down to the coffin.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

“The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the love of a Mother.” -St. Therese of Lisieux

“The heart of a Mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”-Honore De Balzac

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”- Elizabeth Stone

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”- Abraham Lincoln

“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.”- Henry Ward Beecher

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”- George Washington

“Since Jesus highly values children, mothers are His servants when they bless their children for Him.”- Art Birch

“Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.”- Charlotte Gray

 

[1] Swan Life, Copyright 2016. Mark Nicolaides. All Rights Reserved.

 

And Then He Was No More

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In 2008, the storm Hurricane Hanna blew past the coast of Maine on its way to Canadian Maritime. It was a large storm and was the eighth tropical cyclone and fourth hurricane of the ’08 Atlantic hurricane season. Maine didn’t get hit as hard as some of the other states on the eastern seaboard, but we received a lot of rain, which caused the waves in the ocean to go crazy!  I remember the day after Hanna passed by our area; the sky and clouds were absolutely gorgeous over the ocean. One of my friends came to visit and we decided to go into Acadia National Park and watch the huge waves crashing against the rocky coastline. When I shot this photo of her, I told her that it looked just like she was going to keep on walking right off the rocks and go straight up into heaven like Enoch!

 What a great scripture this is in the first book of the Bible. Genesis literally means “beginnings,” or “origins.” I remember the first time I read the Bible from beginning to end, when I read those words, “Enoch walked faithfully with God, and then was no more, for God took him away,” I knew that it was a foreshadow, or picture- type of rapture that Enoch had experienced. He just vanished from the face of the earth! 

Enoch had lived his life in a way that was so pleasing to God, that He called him up to heaven without having to experience a physical death. This is the hope that is called the rapture of the church, and it is the hope of many Christian believers throughout the world today. The Latin translators of the Bible used the word rapere, which is the root of the English word rapture, and the Greek translators use the verb harpazo, which means to “seize with force” or “snatch up.”

Can you imagine what it will be like to be taken off this planet so rapidly that we won’t even realize what happened until we see the Lord? We will be translated and transported through the air, with an arrival time that is less than the time it takes to blink an eye! The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep (die), but we will all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and WE WILL BE CHANGED.” Again, in 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4:17, Paul writes “We who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them (those who have died in Christ) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” When Jesus was speaking with His disciples, He told them, “I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3).

There is a lot of debate concerning the timing of this event for the body of Christ, but all the evidence I read in the Bible, the prophecy that is being fulfilled rapidly, and the witness of the Holy Spirit inside of my heart tells me that the church (or the body of Christ/true followers) are not going to be left behind when God pours out His wrath on the world during the tribulation period. Why would God appoint His church to wrath and leave it behind to go through the tribulation period that will occur on this earth? God’s church is the very reason He has held back His wrath from this evil world for so long because He loves all people and desires that no one should perish.

Enoch walked with God for 365 years, and I have walked with Him for 25 years, but no matter how long the walk we need to stay close to God and be in harmony with His heart. There has never been a time in history when the return of the Lord has been so near, so it is important to live as though we will not have another chance to get our hearts right with God. He is going to keep His promise, because it is impossible for Him to do otherwise. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life that we all long for, and want to come sooner, rather than later.  Maranatha Lord, come soon while we wait, and help us to be about your business until we are rescued!  

 

Shedding Skin and Sin

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Most people do not like the creatures that belong to the class of  Reptiles, but Reptiles actually have some very distinct attributes that can teach us about God and His character, and how to be more like His Son Jesus. In order to distinguish reptiles from other animals, they must have a backbone, scales, lay eggs, breathe with lungs and be cold-blooded, so that their body temperature is determined by their environment.

I am currently residing in Florida where there are many different Reptiles, but the most prolific certainly must be the brown Anole Lizards. It seems as though every step I take here, these lizards dart out in front of me. In this photo, you can see that this Anole is in the process of shedding his old skin in order to accommodate his changing size as he grows. What an incredible analogy this is to compare with what God’s Word teaches us about becoming new creatures in Christ.

When an individual makes a decision to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, there is an instant transformation that occurs during the new birth. For most people, the process of changing and becoming more Christ-like happens at a much slower rate of time, and it must include a choice to change one’s way of living, behavior, thinking, and speech, because Jesus teaches us to live according to the truth of His Word. 

If a lizard is unable to shed its skin at regular intervals of growth time, it can become susceptible to disease, loss of limbs and even death. So, too, with the new life God wants us to live; we must rid ourselves of all of the old ways in which we lived, or we will become worse off than we were before our salvation. Not many of us would get up in the morning, take a shower, and then put on dirty clothes from the day before, but rather we want to put on clean, fresh clothing to start our day.  Paul tells us in this fourth chapter of Ephesians that we must be taught about these new creatures we are to become. In fact the Greek word “kainos” that is used for “new” in this passage, does not mean something more recent in time, but something that has a different quality or nature. The transformation is very similar to the saying, “out with the old, and in with the new.”

Just as we feel better about ourselves when we dress in nice, clean clothes, we will also begin to feel better about ourselves when we have allowed God to change our attitudes and renew our thoughts. The lizard sometimes has to rub itself up against rough surfaces to scrape off any remaining pieces of the old skin while the new skin is growing. The believer almost always has to go through friction and rough times in order to be willing to allow God’s Spirit to completely take him over and direct his life.

It seems absurd for anyone who has tasted and seen how good Christ is to willingly choose to be stuck in his old ways of pride and selfishness, rather than allowing God to transform him and bless him with a far more meaningful life. I think that the biggest obstacle we face as humans is our desire to return to the things that are familiar to us and the lifestyle that we are used to living. There will come a time, though, in the life of every believer when he will have to choose which will be predominant – his mind, or God’s Spirit inside of him. When we have decided to believe in Christ’s sacrificial death for our sins, we must break with the past, because Jesus is not “something” to just add to our lives, He is our life. The old life we lived must die, just as Jesus had to die to save us and give us new life. It was God’s love for us that sent Jesus to the cross, and it will continue to be God’s love for us that will help us to be able to strip off all our old sins one by one until the day that we are completed. 

 

Eagle Eyes

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Eagle Eyes~ Job 39:27, 29

     This beautiful Bald Eagle that I spotted next to the ocean in Maine one day was intently scanning the surface of the waters, no doubt looking for its next sushi dinner. What struck me most as I took this photo was the intensity of its eyes as it waited and watched, resolved to find a fish dinner. Its eyes were piercing and steadfast, with an intense yellow tint to them, and not once did its gaze veer off in any other direction.

     Eagle vision is remarkably astute and is as much as four to eight times more powerful than human eyesight.  An eagle’s vision operates much in the same way a pair of binoculars or a camera’s lens works, with the ability to adjust its focus near or far away. Their eyes allow them to see a distance of between two feet and up to as much as five miles away. A human eye has somewhere around 200,000 visual receptors (or cones) per square centimeter, but an eagle eye contains 1.6 million receptors per square centimeter, giving them incredibly high visual acuity. When they are flying, they know exactly where they are going, as well as the route they will use to get there just by sight and memory. Eagles are daytime fliers that soar on thermals and use familiar landmarks such as rivers and mountain ranges to guide them to the general area where they built their aerie. Once they arrive, scientists think they use more familiar and specific signals to find their particular lake, river, and nesting tree where their huge aerie is built!

 

      I believe God is calling His children who have been given a vision to see and believe in it with their “eagle eyes.”  They are people who love Jesus with all of their heart, soul, and mind and know they must avail the power of God’s Spirit to accomplish their mission. Their vision is dependable, focused, and fearless when it comes to believing God, because He will always do exactly what He promised He would do in His word. They know it will happen in His time and according to the gifts that have been given to them by the Holy Spirit, so they wait on Him expectantly and patiently.

 

2 Corinthians 4:18 tells us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  Like the eagle with its strong ability to watch and observe, God’s children need to rely on the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment to see what the natural man cannot see. This is what our Savior expects from all His disciples, and the very thing we were made for, in order to be joyful people! Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there’s no vision the people perish: but he that keeps the law is happy.”[1.] You cannot live a fulfilled Christian life without the ability to see into the plans of God, and come alongside Him in the work of the ministry.

      If we continually focus our sight on the things of God with eternity in mind, we will observe people and this world differently, with eternity as our perspective. Everything about the eagle’s eyes represents God’s amazing works in His creation. Our human eyes will never be as sharp as an eagle’s eyes, but we have been given a unique ability to see the “bigger picture” of God’s plan for this world. Those who call themselves children of God need more “eagle vision” in order to be victorious over the enemy’s schemes, see God’s kingdom come, and His will be done now on earth as it is in Heaven! 

 

 

[1] New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

The Battle Belongs to GOD

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Do you ever wonder why the storms and trials we go through in life seem to magnify and become intense dramas that cause far too much anxiety and stress? How does God look upon us when we begin our relationship with Him by faith alone, and then go back to relying only on ourselves to accomplish everything in life? Is He grieved by the lack of trust we display towards our Omnipotent God? I believe our lives can be set free from the misery of doubt if we would only believe and apply the lessons of the Bible to every situation we encounter.

The scripture I chose for this photograph was inspired by the plight of the Israelites after being released from 400 years of Pharaohs’ bondage. History records that God used Moses to lead them out of their tyranny in Egypt, and as they began their migration out of Egypt  towards the Promised Land, they came to a very daunting roadblock called the Red Sea, with mountains on both sides and Pharaoh’s army approaching from behind.  

Let’s be real about this and admit that if any of us been there with them, we would have fainted with despair, especially when their leader has told them “You only need to stand still.” Their natural instinct that modern-day psychology calls the “Fight-or-Flight Response” would have already kicked-in the moment they realized they were about to be slaughtered with nowhere to hide.[1]

So often we forget that the amazing and powerful God we serve does not ever think our thoughts, or come to our rescue in the way we imagine He will, but instead God does that which will bring Him the most glory and cause others to know that it was He who performed the miraculous! 

Someone once told me that an acronym for the word FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. There are many fearful issues that we all must face at some point in our lives that can create that “fight or flight” response in us. Just a few that come to mind are family emergencies, long-term illness, war, divorce, economic hardship, abandonment, pain, abuse, rebellious children and death. All of these can be as intimidating and overwhelming for us, as the situation at the Red Sea was for the children of God. They were hemmed-in on every side and frantic over the possible scenarios they would face if God didn’t intervene. Would captivity, torture, poverty, slavery, and death be God’s plan? The life that they had hoped and longed for in the Promised Land of God was about to disappear before their weary eyes.

There was nowhere to go, no escape and no turning back for the Israelites, and like them, some of us have been in the grip of fear, with no end in sight. We have doubted God’s promises and probably even blamed Him for our tragedies. We have cried out to Him for mercy time and time again, but things seem to get more difficult and life has become a burdensome weight and a yoke of slavery. There seems to be no escape, we are surrounded by the enemy on every side. We cannot move in any direction because we are outnumbered and overpowered. Then we cry out, “God, where are you? I need you NOW, more than ever before.”  Who would ever think of “standing still” in the midst of such fearful, stressful, and dangerous situations?

I can testify to you from my own life experiences that this is exactly what God desires from us; and it’s not because He enjoys seeing us sweat bullets, or lose all control in the face of overwhelming circumstances. He allows all of these things to happen because that is when He can prove to us that He is in total control of every aspect of our being. He is not just the God of our salvation, but He is the restorer of our souls, the counselor of our emotions, the healer of our hearts and the Great I AM, who tells us to be still in His presence, because with Him, nothing is impossible as His plans for us unfold.
[1] The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response [in PTSD], hyper arousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful eventattack, or threat to survival. It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon in 1914 in The American Journal of Physiology.