My Strength and My Portion

Psalm 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

As I look back over my life I am struck by the many times I’ve failed the Lord and others. I’m also struck by the many times family and friends have failed me. Each thing that I do is tainted with sin even when I think I’m doing things for the right reasons.

Whom have I? I think I have friends and family that will love me and never let me down but they let me down. I think I will be able to move forward and never let the Lord down or my friends and family yet I continue to do so. The reality is that I have no one except the Lord Who never lets me down. He is the only One!

Whom have I in heaven? Everything in this life points to the Lord Jesus Christ no matter what it is. The look of love from your sweetheart, the great fellowship within the church, the time of rest given where you recuperate from the cares of life, a wonderful day in which everything goes right, etc. are all pointers to the Person Who made all these things possible. Each gift we receive is from the Lord and should point us to the Lord. Our response should be total and complete adoration of God, the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. James 1:17

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? People will fail you so you cannot keep your focus on them, it must be on the Lord. Leaders can fail and preach something that is contrary to the Word of God but we are to study God’s Word so we know God Himself. This will keep us from falling into the trap of false teachers. How do I know which teacher is false and which is true? The Word of God gives me discernment as I study it. I don’t study the Word of God just to gain discernment. I study it so I will know God and, in knowing Him, I discern who is teaching truth and who is teaching lies.

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So the question is, Whom have I in heaven but Thee? This leads into the answer, there is no one but the Lord. Not only in heaven but on earth. There is none upon earth that I should desire beside Thee. If anyone or anything comes before the Lord then we are in sin against God. Our love, worship, and adoration of Him should be such that everyone and everything we care about is like hate compared to our love for Him.

There is none anywhere whether in heaven or on earth that should be so adored as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No one should be so desired as He. As we struggle through each day what can we find that is so desirable? Can the world satisfy us? Can our flesh satisfy us? Can others satisfy us? Can addictions satisfy us?

No! A thousand times no! My flesh fails me all the time. When I think I found something that makes my flesh happy and satisfied, it crumbles like the dust and soon I have nothing but bitterness and sin. My heart fails me, as well. The Bible is clear that my heart is wicked and sinful. Jer. 17:9. It is totally corrupt and nothing good about it. My flesh and my heart fails me continually but….surely something satisfies?

Yes, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever! So, in finishing up contentment we find that only the Lord can satisfy. When I was a child, a song came out that we sang a lot at church and home.

Only Jesus can satisfy your soul.
Only He can change your heart and make you fully whole.
He’ll give you peace you never knew
Sweet love and joy, and heaven, too
For only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

The Lord is the only way to true satisfaction and contentment. He’s the only way to be able to change and grow, whether physically or spiritually. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Nothing and no one can live apart from Him because, in Him we live, and move, and have our being. Acts 17:28. Praise God that He is the strength of our hearts, those who are true believers, and our portion forever to make into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!

Growing Old With Grace

When I was young, old age never bothered me. In fact, I would be hard pressed to even remember a time when I wondered for a fleeting moment what it would be like to grow old. It was other people that grew old – like grandparents. However, it is amazing what almost five decades will do to one’s perspective.

Yesterday, I was reminded again of the passing of years as someone I really did not know passed away and went to be with the Lord they loved. This individual was quite elderly and known to others I love. This brother in Christ had spent years sharing and teaching the Word of God. Despite being racked at times with pain, the main diseases that was eating him away was not what ultimately took him from this life of toil and pain. He closed his eyes in sleep as his heart gave out and woke up in a place where he would never sleep or be in pain again.

When I heard the news, I was reminded again that time is creeping up on us and flies back so quickly. James put it so succinctly when he said in James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

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As I write this, it is a special day for another reason. Forty-four years ago today, in the cold, wind-swept, bone-chilling landscape of the country of Iceland, a healthy young boy was born. Almost from the first day my brother was brought home from the hospital, he was happy. He was the life of the party and often the clown. Yes, we had our ups and downs, but John David made the most of whatever oppositions got in his way.

In late 1995, John had just left the USAF with an honorable discharge and was making a home for himself in North Carolina. He had found a body of believers that he dearly loved and he had spent time with the men on a retreat where his heart was stirred to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, all of that changed when he went to work one cold November morning. I received a call that I should meet at the hospital. Arriving, I found out that my brother, who was less than 5 years younger than me had passed away at the young age of 22. He had acquired an infection in his heart and when his heart exploded, he was gone before he hit the floor.

That was 21 years ago. There are still times the pain and loneliness of not hearing his voice or the endless jokes is emotionally difficult. Even back then, we spoke of him lovingly at the funeral and afterwards, but old age was still a long ways off. I didn’t really dwell on the reality that it was still going to come for all who are left to face the world.

Far from this maddening world, my brother no longer has to walk the dark paths of these Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called them. John’s path led him to a promotion that is far better than anything he could have experienced in this life. In fact, the moment he crossed from death into life, the joys he would have known would have been crowned by meeting the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. That is not something that any true believer would want to take away from another believer. Yes, we miss those who have gone before us, and we can hope that others will miss us when it comes time for us to depart this life.

However, until it is time for us to close our eyes to sin, death, and the grave, we must focus on living our lives in such a way that we will hear, “Well done, you are a good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of the Lord!” We have no reason to fear the door of death. For the believer, the door is only the opening to the wonders of what eternity holds and the half can never be told this side of heaven.

To me, this world is not really my home. I grow tired of the pain and the struggles that assail the flesh and the heart. If I should be left another 10, 20, or 30 years, I struggle to accept that more illnesses and heartache may well be my lot in life as it has been for much of my life.

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Each year that passes, I strangely find that growing old is something that did not really sneak up on me. Each year was filled with memories that resonate in my mind and heart. Each memory, whether good or bad or indifferent or sad or happy, was created as I lived the path that God had ordained for me to walk. One day, those memories may be forgotten as I get even older, but it will not diminish what I have been allowed to do by a gracious God who has been more merciful and gracious to me than I have or will ever deserve.

We live from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, month to month, and year to year. The time is precious and should be spent without regrets before the Lord. I do not fear the age I have become, but I welcome it because it puts me closer to the day when I will see the saints who have gone before me. I will see my grandparents, my brother, and friends who loved the Lord as well.

Growing older does have both advantages and disadvantages, but knowing what comes next makes the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. As believers, we are called to endure this race. Whether we are called to go at a young age or at an elderly age, our race is being encouraged on the sidelines of heaven by the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Therefore, it behooves us to run the race while looking to Jesus Christ alone!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1, 2

The Importance of Communicating Well

Communication. Everyone knows that this is important in relationships, but many don’t seem to know how to communicate well. Or maybe they just don’t want to take the time to do so. Communication is more than just talking; it’s also important that you weigh your words and deliver them in such a way that the hearer will not only hear, but will also understand what is being said and will receive it with thanksgiving that you had the conversation.

The way you say things can make a person smile, or it can make them defensive and angry. It can let them know you love them, or they may feel like you don’t.

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Because this can be hard to accomplish, some give up and decide to let a lot slide, regardless of how they feel, but this is not the answer. Instead, you need to ask God to help you to “let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Be willing to admit when you are wrong and, if you are confronting someone about something they are doing wrong, do it humbly, realizing that you are not always right either.

I think true humility is one of the hardest things for humans to achieve, including Christians. Everyone wants to be liked and thought well of. When someone tears us down and, in our mind, makes us look bad in front of others, our flesh rises to the surface. This is one reason we must not do this to others.

Maybe you were hurt recently by something someone said or did. Or maybe you see someone making a major mistake and you feel you need to talk to them. Take time to pray until God’s love fills your heart for that other person. This can make all the difference. Without love, you are like a “sounding brass or tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). In other words, you are easier to ignore.

Relationships are important. They are the only thing we will take to Heaven with us (assuming they are in Christ). Do not take them for granted. Do not let pride cause them to disintegrate. A good friend (or spouse) is hard to find. When you find them, you must fight for (not with) them! The enemy wants to do everything he can to tear God’s people apart but, if you are faithful to fight against his tactics, you will find overcoming victory, and God will perform an even greater work in and through you, as well as give you stronger relationships that will last through the fiercest storms.

Walk in Unity

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! … For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 133: 1, 3b).

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4).

Unity. One of the things Jesus prayed for His followers (John 17:11) but one thing I don’t see a lot of today. Since the time of Jesus, God’s children have fought over everything from the core doctrines of the faith to the very petty disagreements. Churches have split over the proper way to baptize or how often to take communion, and what kind of bread and drink should be used when doing so. I really don’t think this is what God intended. Jesus would confront sin but He would not debate people to try to convince them of His views. He didn’t cast off His disciples every time they did something stupid. He understood that God gave Him those followers, and He spent His life teaching them and walking with them.

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Today, we often treat each other as easy come, easy go. Relationships just aren’t that important to us, which I think is very sad since people are the only thing we are taking to Heaven with us.

I realize there are times when you must separate from others but the only time Scripture tells us to cut off others is for immorality. There are also times when you may need to leave a church but there is a Godly way to do it, and it’s not by taking half the church with you.

We need to learn to recognize those whom God has put in our lives and, when we find them, determine to work things out and not let them go. We cannot receive the rebukes and exhortations and, yes, even occasional necessary rebukes if we aren’t in fellowship with others.

If you have cut off a friend over a small disagreement or have left a church with an attitude that affected more than just yourself, you need to repent. If you were part of a singing group that you feel mistreated you and you promptly slandered them upon your departure, you need to go back to those you have talked to and acknowledge your wrongdoing. It’s no wonder that people aren’t flocking to know God when they see His children fighting amongst themselves and tearing each other down. Satan doesn’t have to destroy the Church when the Church is doing a good job of destroying itself.

Falling in Love with Jesus All over Again

Let me fall in love with You all over again
Let me know You as never before

As I was praying this morning, this song, sung by the late Kenny Hinson, became my prayer. There is nothing I desire more than to fall in love with Jesus all over again.

In the last few years, I’ve gone through a number of changes, some of which I struggled with a long time before surrendering to the direction God wanted me to take. I don’t like change, and I had to be absolutely sure He was leading. As I look back now, it is so obvious to me that He was indeed calling, and I am overwhelmed by His love for me and His willingness to use this weak, stubborn vessel.

In the last few years, God has also brought some wonderful people into my life–those who are willing to intercede for me, bear with me, and encourage me whenever God lays me on their heart. They say if you can count on one hand your true friends, you are very blessed. If I think about it, I can probably do that and more. At the same time, no one can replace my first Love.

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I am not always faithful. I do not always embrace the tests He brings but have instead cried and begged Him to remove tests when I thought I could not stand it. In the end, though, like the apostle Paul, I found His grace to be sufficient and His strength to be made perfect through my weakness.

I was watching Joni Tada last night on the True Woman Conference’s webcast, and she talked about the importance of surrender to whatever will draw us closer to Jesus. That is a lesson I am still learning but, if I desire a closer walk, I must be willing to accept whatever He knows will rid me of myself so that I can have true communion with Him.

Being over 40 years old and single, God has been my husband and Father. He has been the friend who is there in the middle of the night when all I can do is cry. I have felt Him hold me and assure me He is there, even when I knew I had failed Him. True to His Word, He has never left me or forsaken me but He has blessed me much more than I will ever deserve, and He has surrounded me with people who love me.

I have had an ear infection for several months and, yesterday, I finally got in to get my ears cleaned out. I cried as the doctor worked to remove all the junk in there, but I knew the pain was necessary if I was going to be able to hear again and heal completely.

This experience brought home the reality that it is the same way with life. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. The longer we live, the more sin accumulates until we meet Jesus and He begins to chip away the sins that ensnare us. Even after walking with him for over 20 years, there are still things in my life that need to go. Humanly, I don’t want to go through the pain I may need to go through so He can chisel them out of my heart, but I realize it is necessary in order to have more room for Him. He cannot dwell where sin is present and so surrender I must. If I do so, I will feel more of His love and peace, and I will in turn love Him more than ever before.

God, make that truly my desire, that I love You, not only on the mountain when the sun is shining bright, but also in the valleys when it’s dark and I can’t see You. Keep me looking straight ahead and not on what is going on around me for, with You holding my hand, nothing can touch me and, one day, You will lead me to my eternal Home where nothing will ever harm me again. Thank You, Father. Amen!