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I Am the Great I AM

This was originally posted on April 13, 2013.

I am currently involved in an online Bible study that just started this week. The title of the study is “Stressed-Less Living” based on the book by the same title, authored by Tracie Miles. The Bible study is sponsored by Proverbs 31 Ministries and is facilitated by Melissa Taylor. If you are interested in joining, here’s the link to Melissa’s website: http://melissataylor.org/

Our key Bible verse for this first week of study is Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed , for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (NIV)

When I study scripture, I love to read the verses from different translations. Often, I find a deeper meaning just by a few words being changed. One of my favorite translations is The Message:      “But you, Israel, are my servant. You’re Jacob, my first choice,
descendants of my good friend Abraham. I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’ Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady; keep a firm grip on you.” (vs. 8-10)
The Message groups verses together in a different way than other translations. I included verses 8-9 because I want you to think about what God is saying here. Yes, He is speaking to the Israelites – but His Word is just as true and faithful today as it was then. Think on what God is saying to us:

“I’ve pulled you in . . .”  “I called you . . .”  “I’ve picked you . . .”

This is the Almighty God, creator of the universe, telling you—and me—He has called us. He’s chosen us for “such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) God doesn’t make mistakes—you are here for this time and for the purpose He has for you in life. (Jeremiah 29:11) He calls us His sons and daughters. He says He is enthralled by our beauty (Psalm 45:11). He calls us “Beloved.”

“I haven’t dropped you.” I love the picture those four words paint, and they bring back to my mind a dream God gave me many years ago when my life had shattered into a million pieces and I thought I would not be able to go on. The dream was very simple and left no doubt in my mind it came from God:

God was sitting in a rocking chair, cradling me in His arms, not as a baby, but as an adult—my age at the time of the dream. His arms were wrapped around me, indicating to me He would never let go – He would never drop me. And He hasn’t.

“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.” The English Thesaurus translates the word ‘panic’ as “fright, terror, fear, dread, lose your nerve, go to pieces.” We should not lose our nerves, be fearful, terrorized. We do not have to experience any of these definitions because there is a Scripture that counteracts all of them:  II Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” (KJV) 

“I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady; keep a firm grip on you.”

Psalm 28:7 says “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped.”

Whatever you are struggling with in life right now—health, finances, family issues, work, relationships, anything—trust in God and you will be helped.

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The 14th Tip

Several weeks ago, I experienced what is known as writer’s block. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s when a writer sits with a pen and a blank sheet of paper, or in this day and age, we sit in front of an empty screen and silent keyboard, and we “draw a blank.” We cannot create a single sentence that makes sense. Whether the writer is writing a novel, a short story or a blog, there is nothing there. The brain is quiet. The well is empty. The muse is gone. And for me, at least, it is the time when doubts open their ugly mouths with comments like “See, you weren’t called to write.” “You can’t even write a simple sentence.” “God didn’t put this desire to write in your heart and soul. It is you – your desire to be known is why you want to write.” And my insecurities and fears rise up in immediate agreement.

During this most recent time of writer’s block, I tried everything I could think of to break the stalemate. I would leave my current manuscript and write a blog. I would write gibberish in an attempt to release the muse. The muse was not impressed.

I read article after article on “10 tips on how to overcome writers’ block;” “12 tips on preventing writers’ block;”or “13 tips on how to “cure” writers’ block,” and so on and so forth. Every article had great suggestions and cures. Obviously, the composers of these articles had spent their own prison time in wondering if their muse would ever work again. As in most cases of suggestions and cures, some tips worked for me and some did not.

A few days ago a friend sent me a link to an article about writers’ block because he remembered my time of being imprisoned in mindlessness. I found the article to be helpful and I sent him an email thanking him for passing the link on to me. I shared with him I had found the best thing to cure my writers’ block is prayer. He answered me and said, “Maybe you should write the 14th tip.”

So here it is—the 14th tip: Pray. So simple, I should have thought of prayer and been praying long before writers’ block caused my brain to malfunction. In fact, prayer should be the first thing I do before I sit down to write, or anything else I attempt to do. That being the case, prayer should be the first tip–not the 14th.

Someone posted a message in the loop for American Christian Fiction Writers which said: “Where’s the best place to begin your book? On your knees.”

Why is it getting on our knees and praying is our last resort?

We live in a nation where society says, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” This attitude has invaded the hearts and minds of many Christians. We don’t need to pray. We don’t need God. We can do this on our own. Besides, when we do, it is our accomplishment – we did it all by ourselves. But, God did not create us to “do it all by ourselves.” He created us to live in relationships with other people and a deep, intimate relationship with God. How do we develop a relationship with God? By doing several things—one of which is pray.

When we go out on our first date, we want to get to know this person better. We talk; we ask questions; we listen. This is the purpose of dating. It’s the same thing with prayer. We talk with God; we ask questions; we listen. It is one way God has given us to get to know him. So if I want to know what God says about my writing, the premise of my book, or anything else that concerns me, I pray. I ask God and I listen for His response.

There is more to prayer than just asking for help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Don’t go out and tell everyone you know, “Edwina said prayer is only for asking for help.” God wants us to ask for His help. He created us to be dependent on Him.

Prayer is also for telling God how much we love and appreciate Him. Prayer gives us the opportunity to hear Him tell us how much He loves us. Prayer affords us the chance to praise and worship our Creator. It is a time of confession and asking for and receiving forgiveness, healing, mercy and grace. It is the perfect way to get to know God. And isn’t that what we truly need? To know Him and to be known by Him?

This is my 1st tip and my 14th tip (and all the tips in between.) Pray. Not just for writers’ block. But for all things. Surround everything you do in prayer.

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God’s Passion for Us

PASSION: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.

PASSION means intense emotion, compelling action. PASSION applies to an emotion that is deeply stirring or ungovernable.

God is a God of passion for creativity and beauty. His passion created the world and all that is within. His passion for beauty can be seen as we behold a sunrise on an early spring morning, the colors in a field of wild flowers, the multitude of stars we can see on a clear night.

His passion for us can be found throughout the Bible:

• “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3*)

• The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17 Amplified)

• “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Solomon 6:3 New King James Bible)

• “You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; you have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes.” (Song of Solomon 4:9 NKJV)

Many people believe the Song of Solomon is a love story between a bridegroom and his bride. And that is true, but not in the sense that they are assuming. The Bridegroom (or the Beloved) is God and the Bride (or the Shulamite) is His Church. That’s right—you, me, and all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. So when the verse says “You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes” that is God speaking to us. Can you begin to understand the extravagance of His love for you? His passion for you? With just one “look”—glance—from you to Him—you ravish His heart—you make His heart beat faster.

His passion in us brings out the creativity that He placed in us. Have you ever known a painter who does not have passion for painting? Or a musician who does not love to sing or play their instrument? It is their passion for their calling that stirs their creativity. This passion for being creative is in each of us, even those who may not know Christ as their Savior.

The most obvious example of God’s passion for us is shown when He gave His only Son to die on the cross for us. Can you imagine His pain? His anguish? The tears He shed? To watch His son die and turn His back on Him so that we might have eternal life? Can you begin to fathom the depth of His love for you? His love for you knows no beginning or end. It is eternal and unconditional.

If Christ is living in us, we have that same passion. Not that God is asking us to give our son so that the world might be saved, but to apply His passion that is in us to everything we do and say.

“How can I do that?” I can hear some of you asking. “How can I apply His passion when I hate my _______?” (You fill in the blank) Suppose you filled in the blank with “job.” The Bible says everything we do, should be done as unto the Lord. When you do your job as unto the Lord, it is easy to have passion for that job…or marriage…or life.

Father God, thank you for the gift of passion. May everything we do and say be filled with Your passion that resides in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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Worship in Word

Earlier this week, I wrote about listening to worship music and being drawn into worship. I love music – almost all kinds – and the reverent strains of worship will minister to me many times when other types of music sound like fingernails screeching across hundreds of blackboards.

One can also worship by reading various Scriptures out loud. Many chapters in Psalms are ones of praise and worship. Check out Psalm 138, or Psalm 150. Read Psalm 145 before you fall asleep tonight. Share Psalm 34 with your family at the dinner table. Read Psalm 103:3 to someone who is ill.

My favorite Psalm is Psalm 139. This Psalm has guided me through some dark times, comforted me in some sad times and reassured me many times.

The Psalmist, David, writes in this Psalm about God’s perfect knowledge of man. He says that God knows everything about us. He knows when we lie down and when we rise. He knows what we think and what we are going to say even before we say it. (That should make us stop and think before we blab the first thing that comes to mind!) God is intimately acquainted with everything about us.

David goes on to say that there is nowhere we can go to escape God’s presence. If we are in heaven, God is there; if we are in hell, God is there; if we are in the sky or in the sea, God is there.

Then we come to the verses that should minister to us all, verses 13-16:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day. (The Message)

This section amazes me! God created me and you! We did not begin life as an accident, a blob of cells, a fetus with no viability of life. God’s mighty hands, full of strength and gentleness, formed our bodies, starting on the inside with the very first cell. As the verses above say, He knew how we were made from nothing into something because He made us and He watched us grow from the very moment we were conceived until we were born. He planned every day of our lives before we were ever born and He continues to watch over us.

Not only does He watch over us, but David continues this Psalm by speaking of God’s thoughts toward us:

17How precious and weighty also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18If I could count them, they would be more in number than the sand. When I awoke, [could I count to the end] I would still be with You. (Amplified)

Think about every place on earth that has sand. Now think about how many grains of sand that would be. He thinks of us more often than the number of grains of sand in the entire world.

Is it any wonder that our hearts long for a personal, dare I say intimate, relationship with Him?

Daddy

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

This post was originally published on June 16, 2013. I had no idea when I wrote this that day would be the last Father’s Day we would celebrate with him here on earth. Now, he celebrates with his Heavenly Father every day.

Unless you’ve been on safari for the last several weeks, you know that today is Father’s Day. If you haven’t bought your present yet, there’s still plenty of time. Stores stay open on Father’s Day for procrastinators – and for those who just love a good bargain on men’s items.

I was thinking about my dad earlier, of all that he’s lived through in his soon-to-be 88 years. I don’t remember much about my infant and early childhood years. But I do know that my dad contracted TB and had to be hospitalized at a VA Hospital that was quite some distance from our home. At that time, there was no guarantee for a cure; I understand those were some very tense months until he was pronounced well and could come home.

My family was very active in church as my sister and I grew up. For the first seventeen years of my life, we lived less than a block from the church so we were there every time the doors were unlocked. My sister and I were shown by example that church attendance is an important part of daily life.

I remember the time that my dad came home and cried. He had served on the building committee for the new church and it was finally finished. The responsibility was great, the pressure was finally off. My sister and I learned to accept responsibility and carry it through to the end because of my dad’s example.

I remember another time when he came to me, tears in his  eyes and said he needed to talk to me. He told me that his beloved dad, J. B. Evans,–my beloved Papa Evans, had gone to be with Jesus after a valiant fight against cancer. I learned it was okay to cry–a lot–when you need to.

There are so many pictures in my mind this morning…daddy holding his first and only granddaughter, my daughter, Kim. Daddy waiting to walk me down the aisle and eighteen years later waiting to hold me in his arms when that marriage was no more. I see him on his knees in our den praying, and as his knees wore out, I see him sitting in his recliner, praying. He and my mom still pray every night and every night they name off my sister, me and our husbands, our children and grandchildren. That means daddy names off the four adults, five grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. And he never misses one.

If your daddy is still living, consider yourself blessed and be sure and visit him today or call if you don’t live close. If he’s no longer here, honor him by remembering the good times and the lessons he taught you.

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Even If…

Originally posted on August 21, 2012. 

I love praise and worship music. There is nothing that will move me more than a beautiful worship song. There is nothing that will get me on my feet and hands clapping as fast as an exciting praise song. (Well, my Georgia Dawgs can do that…but that’s another blog for another day.)

The lovely melodies, the chords that blend perfectly, even the chords that clash and set my teeth on edge–all combine to bring me enjoyment, peace, pleasure.

But it’s the lyrics that can give me pause–make me stop and think, bring an awareness of my surroundings, drive home a point or two. Lyrics can remind me of the “Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” for me (and you), of how I am “Redeemed,” and “How Great is Our God.” I am reminded of His “Amazing Grace,” and how He accepts me (and you) “Just As I Am.”

I heard a song the other day that stopped me in my tracks. Some of you know that my husband has been in pain 24/7 for the last five years. We have prayed together for his healing, he has been anointed with oil, hands laid on him and prayed over. People who have never met him have prayed for him. Yet, the pain continues. When I heard “Even If” by Kutless, I had to ask myself, “Can I still say that You are God, the Faithful One?”

If you are in this or a similar situation, my prayer for you and me today, is that you will be able to say, “Even if there is no healing, You are still God.”

Here’s the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqOkZiOb9u0

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From Mundane to Magnificent

Day in–Day out.  Constant . . . relentless . . . regular . . . endless . . . day in–day out.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a stay-at-home (read: work-at-home) mom, a young single woman just starting your career, a single mom trying to make ends meet, or a mom who works outside the home—only to arrive back late in the day to take care of your family and your household responsibilities, it’s all the same. Our circumstances and lives may be different, but most of us are in that same relentless, mundane cycle we call living.

And yet, this is not really living. Surviving, perhaps, or getting by, but not living. We know, or at least we hope, there’s more to life than this. Because if this is all there is, why do we bother?

This mundane life is definitely not how God created us to live. God designed us to want more—more of Him. And in Him, we experience life abundantly and fully.

In Hebrews 13:15 the author writes, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that gives thanks to His name.” What is the ‘sacrifice of praise?’ Is it just that we struggle out of bed on Sunday to get to church on time so we can sing during the worship service? Of course not. In this verse, ‘sacrifice of praise’ indicates a living sacrifice—a constant expression of worship. Everything we do, everything we say or think should be an act of worship. Even the most mundane things in our life should be an act of worship—ALL to the glory of GOD!

How do we move from our mundane existence to living in the magnificent presence of God 24/7?

1)   We start our day submitting ourselves and our day to God.

2)   Everything we do, say and think, must be as “unto the Lord” and for His glory alone.

3)   We “practice His presence” all the time. If you’ve not read Brother Lawrence’s book “The Practice of the Presence of God,” I highly recommend it.

4)   We end our day, giving thanks and praise to God.

The Bible tells us in I Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “Rejoice evermore.

Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (KJV)

Rejoice evermore: Another word for “evermore” is “eternally.” But we don’t need to wait until we are standing before God to praise Him. We can do that here, all the time. I listen to praise and worship music all day – in my office at work, in my car and in my home office. I surround myself with praises and when no one is listening, I sing along. (I am a shower/car soloist. I sing beautifully in the shower and in the car.  J )

Pray without ceasing: This dovetails into practicing the presence. When we are constantly in an attitude of prayer, we are completely aware of the presence of God around us.

In everything give thanks: James tells us in Chapter 1:2 that we are to “count it all joy.” When trials, temptations, and troubles hit us so hard that we are devastated—even in those times—we are to count it all joy. God may not have caused those trials, temptations, and troubles, but if we allow Him to walk through those times with us, He will teach us and grow us spiritually. And at the end of those situations, we will be victorious.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take magnificent over mundane every day!