YEAR-END INVENTORY

December 31, 2010

Marshall's Department Store in Barberton

When I was in High School, I worked part-time at Marshall’s Department Store in Barberton, Ohio. The last week of the year we did a year-end inventory. The owner needed to know exactly where the business stood – if there was a loss or a gain, and how much. There were no computers back then. With a notepad and pencil as our only tools, we sat on dusty boxes in the dingy, dimly lit third floor of the building, counting and classifying each piece of merchandise and recording our findings. Slowly, methodically and tediously we plugged along, until we finished this necessary task.

How about doing a year-end inventory of our lives? Notebook and pencil in hand, we can look back over 2010, and see pretty much where we stand at this year’s end.

My 2010 year-end inventory reveals some beautiful, specific answers to prayers – and others that have not yet been answered. I tally up victories in some areas, and find other issues that still need more work. I see blessings I didn’t ask for or deserve. I’m thankful for old friends, new friends, and people who have blessed me. I find there were times of confusion, and distasteful events; celebrations as well as moments of disappointment. But what really stands out as I tally up my year-end inventory is God’s unfailing kindness and goodness. I can emphatically testify with the psalmist David: “You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance.” (Psalm 65:11)

Have you done your year-end inventory?

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The Christmas Bell

December 24, 2010

THE BELL
I KNOW WHO I AM
I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15 )
I am united with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17)
I am bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ.  (Acts 1:8)
I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt 5:13-14)
I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
I am free forever from condemnation ( Rom. 8: 1-2)
I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil 3 :20)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8:31 -34)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph.. 2:18)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39)
I am established, anointed, sealed by God  (2 Cor 1:21-22 )
I am assured all things work together for good  (Rom. 8:28 )
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16 )
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph.. 3: 12 )
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13 )
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5)
I am God’s temple (1 Cor.. 3: 16).   I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10)
I am hidden with Christ in God(Col.3:3)I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am God’s co-worker (2 Cor 6:1) and  I am  His workmanship (Eph. 2:10)
I am sure 
I belong to God!
Who are you?

PRAISE GOD FOR THE CHRISTMAS BELL!!


I LOVE THE LORD BECAUSE…

October 25, 2010

“I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1,2

How would you finish the phrase “I love the Lord because….” ?

That’s the question I asked myself as I was meditating on Psalm 116 the past few days. After mulling it around in my mind a while, I asked my husband Jorge how he would finish the sentence. We both agreed that at the top of the list would be “He loved me first.” (1st John 4:19). He didn’t wait till we were “good enough” to love… (none of us could ever be “good enough”!) He loved us right where we were, no matter how “good” or “bad” we’d been. That’s one of the amazing characteristics of God’s love. The apostle Paul expressed this truth very simply: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Even though I was raised in a Christian home and attended church regularly, I was a self-centered, proud, obnoxious teen. That’s when I understood that God loved me and sent Jesus to die for me. I wasn’t loveable, but He loved me anyway! Even more amazing is that He kept on loving me as I grew up, and keeps on loving me as I grow older (we won’t say HOW old here…). When I doubt Him, He loves me. When I choose my own way, He loves me. When I am indifferent towards Him, He loves me. When I think I can handle things on my own, He loves me. When I stumble, He loves me. Is there ever a time when He doesn’t love me? NO! He promised that His love would NEVER depart from me. Here’s our assurance in the words of the apostle Paul:

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture… None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8:35-39, taken from “The Message”)

I love the Lord because He loved me first. And because He still loves me. And because He’ll always love me.

How would you finish the phrase “I love the Lord because….” ?


GOD’S LOVE ENDURES FOREVER!

October 14, 2010

“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you. Isaiah 54:10

No doubt, everyone who loves God’s Word has a favorite verse. This is one of mine, because in it, God assures me that HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER. Even in the most extreme situation; in the greatest chaos, confusion and loss, God will never, EVER stop loving me! He will ALWAYS give me His peace, and surround me with His mercy!

I was looking through an old “quiet time” journal, and want to share with you the prayer of praise that I jotted down on April 3, 2004 after having written Isaiah 54:10 at the top of the page. It was the expression of my heart then, and it still is! Read it slowly, and praise God with me!

“Lord, I praise You and thank You that Your kindness, peace and mercy will NEVER depart from me – no matter what!!
            Even if I can’t understand what’s going on,
                        Your kindness, peace and mercy will be with me!
            Even if I can’t hear You,
                        Your kindness, peace and mercy will be with me!
            Even when I can’t see the next step –
                        Your kindness, peace and mercy will be with me!
            Even until I see YOU face to face,
                        Your kindness, peace and mercy will be with me!
I praise You, Lord, for knowing that!
I praise You for being the God who NEVER breaks a promise!
I praise You because I can trust in You, the unchanging God.
I praise YOU because I can rest on Your promise that “YOUR LOVE ENDURES FOREVER”…forever…and ever! AMEN!

There is a beautiful song by Michael W. Smith titled “So Great” that reminds us over and over that God’s love endures forever. Click on the link and take a few minutes to listen to it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZZ5CWrufNg


WEEKLY BIBLE READING PLAN – Sept. 20-25: Knowing God Better (2)

September 20, 2010

MONDAY: Nehemiah 9:31. Reading this verse, we praise God because He is a God of _________ and ______________.

TUESDAY: Psalm 62:7. It’s reassuring to know that God is a _________________ for us!

WEDNESDAY: 2 Peter 3:9. Thankfully, our God is __________________ towards us!

THURSDAY: Jude 25. God alone is ________________________.

FRIDAY: John 3:16. Besides showing us His love for us in this verse, we understand that He is also a _____________________ God.

SATURDAY: 2 Corinthians 1:3. God is the Father of _______________ and the God of all ____________ .

BONUS: Revelation 4:8. Reading this verse carefully, we can find 3 important characteristics of God. He is _______________,  ______________________, and ________________________.


THE FATHER’S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

June 19, 2010

 2ND Samuel chapters 13-19

Thinking of fathers throughout history, we can learn from their lives. King David as a father is an example of unconditional love towards a rebellious son.  One of the consequences of David’s shameful sin with Bathseba was that God would raise up adversity against him from his own house. (2 Sam. 12:11). Being warned that someone from his own family would turn against him, that severe adversity came through his son, Absalom. 

Absalom grew to be a cunning, vengeful man. Because of his evil lifestyle, David “wept very bitterly” (13:36) and “he mourned for his son every day…” (13:39). Finally after several years, they were reconciled. Absalom “bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom”. (14:33). It seemed to be the end of a long, dreadful chapter, but the seeds of hate and bitterness below the surface of Absalom’s heart were about to bring even more anguish to David.

Absalom was working behind the scenes, scheming another plot. This time he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” We know that Absalom had a plan, but he wasn’t going to rush into it. He waited another forty years before he got enough followers to rise up against his Father, the king, and attempt to overtake the throne. He enlisted conspirators and spies to join him in the uprising. His followers increased. (15:12) Realizing that Absalom was after him, David and all of his followers fled from Jerusalem to the wilderness. David wept as he left; some of his trusted friends turned against him. During the time of this upheaval, David wrote Psalm 3 in which he laments, confesses his trust in God, commits to continued trust, and keeps crying out to God.

David, having his troops organized for the battle against his own son, did the unthinkable: within earshot of all the people, he commanded his military leaders to “deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” Confusion must have overtaken them all: deal gently with the enemy?…deal gently with the sinister being who wants to overthrow your throne?…deal gently with the person who is plotting your death?…what are we fighting for?…deal gently…what are you thinking???

Despite David’s request for mercy on his rebellious son, God, who is always  in control, executed His perfect judgment on Absalom, allowing his hair to get tangled in a tree, leaving him hanging as his mule continued on. David’s warriors then killed and buried Absalom.

How did David react in all of this national turmoil, rebellion and wicked scheming by his own son? When word reached David that he had been delivered from: “the men who raised their hand against my lord the king” (18:28), David’s first reaction was: “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (18:29) The second messenger brought news of the victory, and again David inquired: “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (18:32) We see the deep love that David had for his rebellious son who intended such evil against him. Realizing that Absalom had died, David was very, very deeply sorrowed, and “went up to the chamber over the gate and wept…o my son Absalom – my son, my son Absalom – if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son.” (18:33) Setting aside the fact that David was king of Israel, and seeing him in his role as father, we see how deeply he loved his son Absalom in spite of a lifetime of scheming rebellion. That father love was evident although the son didn’t realize it, and didn’t even care that he was causing his father unspeakable distress and pain.

There is a strong parallel between this story of David’s love for his son and God’s love for us. I’m reminded of how much God the Father loves each one of us His children, even though we turn from Him, cause Him pain and rebel against Him. David himself often wrote about God’s mercy and everlasting love. Perhaps David understood that love because he experienced it, and that’s what motivated him to love Absalom to the end.

God doesn’t give up on us. He loves us, and will love us “to the end”. God’s love doesn’t hinge on what we do or don’t do. It is rooted in the very nature of His love, which is unconditional and unchangeable! He will always love His children!

How do these truths affect my life? They give me a greater appreciation for His everlasting love to me, while also showing me that I must love others the way He loves me: unconditionally. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God…In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.” (1st John 4:7,10)…Yes, my Father God loved me first, He loves me no matter what, and I can live with the assurance that He always will love me! THAT’S the Father’s unconditional love!


HAS GOD CHANGED?

June 6, 2010

In the past few days, I heard of very difficult situations some friends and family are facing: serious medical issues, rebellious children, an elderly mother’s dementia, a marriage that is going through extremely trying times, a mom concerned about her adult children’s bad choices, a friend caring for her mom who is undergoing treatment for cancer, and the list goes on…and on…and on…

I’m reminded of what God told Moses at the burning bush, when His chosen people were suffering under Egyptian bondage. He said: I have surely seen the oppression of My people…I have heard their cry…I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them…and to bring them up to a good and large land…” (Exodus 3:7-10). God saw. God heard their cry. God knew their sorrows, and came down to deliver them. The prophet Isaiah confirmed that by writing: “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:9)

Has God changed? ABSOLUTELY NOT! He is the very same God! We can look at it this way:

• If He was afflicted in all the affliction of His people thousands of years ago, He’s afflicted in all of our afflictions, too!

• If He redeemed them in His love and Mercy, His renewed compassion redeems us, too!

• If He bore them and carried them all of their days, then He can carry us every day, too!

• If He heard their groaning and every time they cried out to Him, He hears us every time we cry out to Him, too!

• If he saw their oppression, He is very much aware of our situation, too!

• If He knew their sorrows and came down to deliver them, He will come down to deliver us, too!

God assures us through the prophet Malachi that “I am the Lord, I do not change.” (Mal. 3:6) His compassions never change! His faithfulness never changes! His promises never change! His love for us never changes! His strength does not change! Praise God, we can trust in Him today, and know that we can trust Him tomorrow, too, because….

GOD HAS NOT CHANGED!


He Loved THEM to the End?

April 2, 2010

Reading through the gospels to get a better understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry, one verse stands out: John 13:1: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This verse seems to be an accurate description of the unfailing love that characterizes Jesus, and digging deeper, I asked myself: “Who is the “THEM” that Jesus loved to the end?”

            We know that Jesus loved the outcasts, sinners and those who society wrote off as unworthy, treating them as such. We read of His unconditional love for them, and see how lavishly He loved them, compassionately interacting with them; yet in this passage, the “THEM” that John is referring to are “His own”: those He called to be His followers, the men who spent the three years of Jesus’ ministry right at His side.

            In spite of being “His own”, and experiencing His compassion and power every day, at times it seemed like they simply didn’t “get it.” This is the same group of men who participated in the miracle of feeding the 5,000 and a few hours later “cried out for fear”.  They are the ones who could not heal the epileptic boy because of their unbelief (Matt. 17:14-20). His closest followers were the very ones who fell asleep on the mountain when Jesus, transformed, was talking with Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:28-36).They were often rebuked by their Master with harsh words such as “How is it that you have no faith?” “How long shall I bear with you?” These same men were arguing about who would be greater in the kingdom when He was predicting His sacrificial death to them, and they were His best friends who later would go with Him to Gethsemane and fall asleep three times (not once!!) while He was agonizing with the weight and ugliness of the sin of the world, struggling to accept His cruel death as God’s plan for their own salvation! They just didn’t get it. Later they would abandon Him, deny Him, and go so far as to be willing to return to their pre-Christ employment and activities. He knew all of that had happened and was yet to happen, yet “He loved THEM to the end.”

            Looking at “His own” who were so “loved to the end” gives me greater awe of Christ’s love for me. I read of their doubts and it shames me to recall the many times in my own life that I didn’t completely trust in His power. I am appalled by their reactions, and realize how often I cling to my own opinions or desires, not understanding His plans. It puzzles me how they could fall asleep in such a crucial moment as when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, not acknowledging that my reactions to life situations are sometimes all about my comfort and not His glory; that I’m not watchful in prayer, either. How often I just don’t “get it”, either!

            “He loved THEM to the end”? Praise God, He did! His love towards them didn’t depend on their performance, but on who He was: God Himself, full of grace and compassion. Will He love ME to the end? Thank God, His love towards them assures me that He will love me with the same unconditional Father- love… “to the end”! While that truth gives me confidence, and assures me that it will never change, I also have to realize that I have a responsibility to Him who loved me so. Jesus elaborated on His love, and left His disciples instructions as to what to do with that love. He said in John 15:9: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” My desire today is to know that love; to believe it, share it, appreciate it, rejoice in it, let it transform my life, and praise Him for it.


CAN A WOMAN FORGET?

March 2, 2010

CAN A WOMAN FORGET?

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and not have compassion on the son of her womb?

Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.  See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.”

Isaiah 49:15,16

We had guests over for dinner this past weekend. In the course of the conversation, Joanie expressed the grief she feels because her own mother doesn’t remember who she is. I totally understood her, and my mind flashed back to how I felt when Mom didn’t remember me anymore, either. At that time, I wrote something I’d like to share.

In the past, each time I read the passage in Isaiah 49:15,16, I thought to myself: “That’s an interesting example, but there’s NO WAY a mother can ever forget one of her children.” After all, I reasoned, that child was part of her very being since before he even made his physical debut on this planet! And after his arrival, in his helplessness, he consumes a mother’s days and nights as she tends to his every need. As the child grows and matures, mom guides, protects, provides for, comforts, encourages and rejoices, as she finally sees her child reach the point of independence. Yet even then, a mother’s heart is still entwined with that child she invested so much in. She continues to support, defend, and give, even to the point to sacrifice. What would a mother NOT do for her child, even her adult child? Will a mother ever stop being concerned for her child? How could it be possible that she would ever forget that child she holds so dear?

That is what I used to think. Then mom’s Alzheimer’s got worse. When we would go to see her, I started having to tell her who I was. I was 55 years old, and my introduction was always the same, so she would be able to place me. It was: “Hi Mom, I’m Kath, your baby.”  By the barrage of questions that followed, she confirmed the fact that she had forgotten me: “Are you married? Who to? Where do you live?” She completely forgot that my Argentine husband Jorge and I had lived in Argentina for 27 years, that we raised our family there, and that she often visited us. She forgot that my husband and I lived with her and dad to help them with their daily care for nearly 1½ years after we returned to Ohio in 2003; even being a Grandma that dearly loved her twenty grandchildren, she didn’t remember that we have children. After introducing myself and answering all of her initial questions, she would look at me and ask, “Which one are you?” Then she would proceed to ask the same questions over and over, and hear the same answers time and time again. Each time I visited her, our familiar routine started out with “Hi Mom, I’m Kath, your baby”, and continued right on course. 

One of the last pictures of Mom and I

As I watched Mom’s memory come and go, and saw that she forgot each of her 4 remaining children more frequently (and forgot that her oldest child, Janet, passed away in December of 2004), this verse that Isaiah wrote so many centuries ago nearly jumped off the page of my Bible one morning. What I once considered to be nothing more than an example that didn’t quite line up with reality, became the unfortunate reality I was experiencing. When I came to that realization, the second part of this passage became all the more precious to me, as I wrapped my arms around it and embraced the truth of it: surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you in the palms of my hands.” Those nail scars that He has on the palms of His hands give me the assurance that He really does love me “with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3).

Knowing and believing these truths allows me to be reconciled with the fact that Mom had truly forgotten me. It was hard for me to imagine, and even harder to accept, but God used this heartbreaking situation to make His eternal love all the more precious to me. It causes me to praise God for His promise that He will not forget me ever! I thank Him that I don’t have to introduce myself to Him every time I present myself before Him! (“Hi God, I’m your child. You adopted me way back in 1965…Remember?”) It is assuring to know that He knew me and loved me before I was even born, with His perfect, unchanging, everlasting love. And I praise Him that I can rest in that love – even though my own Mom, who very peacefully passed into the Lord’s eternal presence on June 9, 2007, had forgotten me!


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