Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Words of Our Mouths

In our Sunday morning sermon, we heard a cute definition of gossip---mouth to mouth recitation. God warns us about being gossips. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Eph. 4:29

I was always told as a child, If you can't say something good about somebody, don't say anything at all. That was wise counsel given to me. It is easy to be drawn into conversations as women. We love to talk. We relish the fellowship, the sharing of each other's lives, and rejoicing with each other about the blessings God sends our way. However, it's harder to withdraw from conversations that begin by sharing information that is not uplifting or encouraging about someone else. Negative speech always makes us uncomfortable, but are we strong enough to stand up and say so? Often not! If we talk unkindly about another person, whether it be a boss, a friend, our husbands, or someone we don't even know well, it not only harms the person we are gossiping about, but it harms us as the gossiper. We speak out of turn by passing on judgmental or casual comments about another person. Gossip can be very harmful in putting false impressions into others' heads about another person. We have no right to pass our opinions on to someone else. Our tongues deceive us when we pass on secondhand or thirdhand information that may have gotten jumbled along the way. A good thought to remember is to think first before we speak. Is what I am about to say uplifting and encouraging to all parties concerned?

In James, he tells us, "Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him, speaks against the law and judges it."

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

May your fellowship with one another always be a joy!

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Joy of Answered Prayer

There is no greater joy than to receive a positive answer to a very heartfelt prayer that has burdened you deeply over a period of time. This past week a dear friend of mine requested prayer about a suspected possible recurrence of ovarian cancer. She had been cancer free for over four years and yet last week she began to feel a soreness in her liver area. What a privilege that she felt free enough to share her fears with me and immediately I began to pray that the Lord would keep her body cancer free. She went for testing on Thursday and it was a long weekend as we waited for the test results on Monday. Praise God, over the weekend her pain disappeared and her CA125 came back without any indications of cancer in her body.

The joy that comes from answered prayer is indescribable. It is also very humbling. To know that we serve a living God that loves us, a God who has compassion for us in our times of need, and that hears our prayers and answers with a resounding positive response is so awesome!

"Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (Jer. 33:3)

"May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed." (Psalm 20:4)

"Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)

God's promises can be trusted by faith in His unfailing love and in His infalliable Word. God knows what is best for us, and He loves for us to go to His throne of grace depending upon Him for answers when the circumstances seem insurmountable.
It is by faith mountains can be moved. It is by faith we find peace when everything around us is so uncertain.

Agreed, sometimes God's answers aren't so clear and concise, and sometimes God answers with "No, my dear child, that is not the best I have planned for you. I cannot answer that because I love you too much to send you down the wrong path."
When we do not get the answer from God that we hoped for, please be assured that God is still sovereign and in control and He still loves you with a compassion and love that is beyond measure. In time, or maybe not even until eternity, you will understand that His plans for you were always the best plans. It's all a matter of trust and faith in His Sovereignty!

I pray you know the joy of God's answers to your prayers!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

New Compassions Every Morning

There are so many ways through each day that God blesses us so abundantly, and I suspect that most people fail to recognize that God's hand is the source of those blessings. There's an old phrase that says we must "stop and smell the roses", indicating that we pass by those roses daily taking their wonderful fragrance and beauty for granted without taking the time to notice the sweet odor penetrating your senses, without seeing the beauty of each petal as it unfolds into a beautiful flower unique in its own way, and yet a rose; and maybe not noticing the drop of dew from the morning mist lying beaded on a petal; or that a spider web has weaved its lovely web in the thorn bush from which the rose has grown. On each given day, God pours out His wondrous blessings to us which we so casually ignore. We do not trace our blessings back to God and His goodness and His desire to bless us with good things!

In Lamentations 3:22-26, the prophet says "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."

Do you take the time to wake up and train your mind to appreciate the blessings of God that are new to you every morning? Just think---a new blessing each day! Our loving and compassionate Lord desires to show us His faithfulness, His wondrous grace that He bestows on us and they are there for us to see, hear, touch, smell and sense His presence in some new and refreshing way every day! Here in Hawaii, we have so many beautiful sights, sounds and smells to jar our senses--the gentle trades blowing in the palms, the soft slap of the waves on a flat sandy beach, or the roar of the waves splashing against tall jagged black rocks, the smells of plumeria in the air, (or sometimes pungent smells of sugar cane burning), a beautiful rainbow that crosses from one pineapple field to another, the clucking of wild hens who have given birth to many chirping little chicks trailing behind her, the jabbering of the myna birds as they fight amongst each other. The list could go on and on of all the tangible blessings God gives us to enjoy. But what of the intangible blessings---do we remember to thank God for the blessing of a good night's rest, for the ability to see and hear, the joy of a good walk on the beach, the phone call of a friend, the smell of bread cooking in the oven, the sound of a grandson's laughter, that special letter that arrived in the mail, the peace that a scripture verse has given us, the joy of knowing that God is near, and the list goes on and on and on.

The Lord truly is good to those that hope in him. Slow down to recognize the goodness of God in the things He brings into your day that is new every morning. His mercy is beyond measure, His grace beyond words, His faithfulness so enduring. If you focus on the good things God brings your way, maybe the not-so-good will grow strangely dim, maybe even disappear when we fill our hearts with praise for God's new and fresh mercies every morning!

Look and see that the Lord is good!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Do I know you from somewhere?

Many times in my life I have had complete strangers ask me, "Do I know you from somewhere? You look so familiar." I just had that happen to me this week. I usually reply with "I must have a very familiar face as this question is asked of me often."

Upon thinking about this, wouldn't it be so wonderful if these people recognized the face of Jesus in me? When Christ indwells us, we should be able to radiate the look of Christ from our countenance. A smile that radiates warmth, a listening ear when they speak, a kind word of appreciation. Everyone responds to these Christ-like acts of behavior. Also, if Christians ask this question of you, the bond of Christ unites and connects individuals with His Spirit. I have felt the Spirit of Christ in strangers and rejoiced when I knew they knew my Lord as well. There's a little Christian praise song that says, "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love."

Jesus calls us to be salt and light to the world. He doesn't want us to seal that light and salt in tight containers---He wants us to be light in a dark world, and add flavor so that others will want to see and taste the goodness of our God. I pray that when someone asks you, "Do I know you from somewhere?", you can take that as a compliment. You are mirroring the face of Christ in your actions.

May Christ be seen in you today!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Trials with Grace

Yesterday Dick, my dear husband, had a stress echocardiogram to check if his heart worked properly after stressing it with exercise. His appointment was at 10:00 am and the doctor called him in about 10:15 am. I didn't see him again until 1:30 pm. Now I know why they call it a STRESS echocardiogram----I was really stressing out in the waiting room for over 3 hours wondering and imagining all kinds of horrors. However, there was no need to be anxious. The wait was not because of my husband but another patient, and when the doctor was finally able to follow through with Dick's tests, the results were good.
The doctor's final orders were "diet and exercise." We can do that----we must do that!

While waiting for Dick in the waiting room, I met a most remarkable woman. She was of Hawaiian descent, she had 25 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, but her face did not reveal her age at all. She lived in Hana which is at least a two-hour drive around very very curvy narrow roads. She has had diabetes for over 30 years which has affected her kidneys and her heart in her latter stages of the disease. She comes into Kahului three times a week for dialysis over that long narrow road. Yesterday she was at the heart doctor for him to check her pacemaker that she just had put in a few months ago. Her countenance and her attitude were so refreshing, as she was thanking God for the privilege of coming for dialysis which cleans out her kidneys and allows her to live because of the procedure. And the pacemaker had given her so much more energy which allowed her to enjoy life so much more as compared to the days prior to the pacemaker. She was a true example to me of living her trials with grace.

Each day is a gift of God. Each day we should remember the Lord's benefits to us rather than complain about the problems. Count your many blessings--name them one by one. He wants us to live rejoicing in the privilege of today! I am the first one to remind myself of this wonderful privilege!

Enjoy today!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Storms of Life

As I was pondering this morning my circle of family and friends, I realized how many of them are going through tough trials. When I thought of the number of friends who are battling cancer, I was astounded. Many of them have gotten through the worst part of the treatments, and are now in remission, but cancer always lies somewhere below the surface of your mind wondering when it will rise its ugly head to strike you again. I have a friend who was in an ugly car wreck and was paralyzed, but has accomplished so much to get her life back together. I have family and friends who have gone through ugly divorces and are now trying to struggle on their own to raise their children or to make it on their own financially. I have friends who are just plain getting older and are wondering what lies ahead for them in their future. Trials are a natural part of life. We don't ask for them, they just arise and we have to deal with them. But thank God above we do not have to deal with them alone. God has a very different perspective on the trials that come our way and they are for a very different reason than the ones we conjure up as we face them. If it were up to us, we would never welcome trials. But God says, "count it all joy." How is this possible?

I love the NLT version of I Peter 1:6-7, "So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."

Our trials here on earth are not meant to sink us into a deep pit of despair, but rather they are to purify us and cleanse us as fire purifies gold. Trials force us to call upon a higher power source than our own. We realize that God alone can bring good out of what we are going through. It brings us back on the trail to godliness. Secondly, trials allow us the opportunity to comfort others who may be going through similar trials. With the same comfort that God comforted us, we can comfort others going through the same fears and anxieties as we did. As we experience suffering, we learn about God's sufficiency, His comforting presence, and His provision of strength to help us endure. We can be real with others because we know what they are going through. When trials come, ask what God wants you to know through this trial. He wants you to know Him as a God of ALL comfort. He wants you to know that His grace IS sufficient to get you through to the other side of the pain. He wants you to experience the strength He is so willing to give you if you recognize him as your all-powerful God. And He wants you to tell others about His comfort, strength and grace!

You are not alone in your trial! God is ever so near!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Answers to My Own Questions re Faith

I hope I challenged your thinking regarding faith yesterday by the questions that were presented to you. I will attempt today to give you my viewpoints on the questions I asked and you can let me know if you agree or disagree with my answers.

Faith to me is believing with all my heart and soul in Almighty God in heaven who loves me with an everlasting love and wants me to experience all of His best, an abundant life, a life of joy, peace, and contentment---not because of anything I do, but because of His grace alone. Grace is unmerited favor. I don't work to receive his grace, and I don't have to work up faith on my own to receive all the blessings He wants to bestow on me. It is His gift to me. All He asks of me is that I believe in Him, His character, His nature as revealed to me in His Word, the Bible. My faith does increase or decrease by how much I know God. If I learn more and more of His character, my faith in Him does grow---but I don't make it happen just because I read. I learn to accept all of whom God is just by learning to know Him in a greater way. The more I know Him, the more I trust Him and His promises to me.

My works do not determine the measure of faith God gives to me. My works only prove that I know God and what He desires of me. My works are an outward expression to the world around me of how much God means to me. My faith is not measured by what I do, but by what God does through me as His vessel. God expresses Himself through human vessels that surrender to His will for their lives. God creates us with a purpose, and that purpose will be accomplished only through the power of God's Spirit at work within us. The greater I surrender my whole heart to His purposes, the greater works will be accomplished through me---and the world may never openly see that purpose, because my works should be accomplished for God's praise and glory alone, not for the world to see and give glory to me.

Do we compartmentalize our faith? I believe we do. God wants our whole heart. And I believe it is easy to give an area of our heart to God and leave other parts of our hearts closed to Him. For an example, it is easy to have faith that God will heal Aunt Mary's cold, but so much harder to believe He will heal Aunt Jane of terminal cancer. It is easy to have faith that God can save sinners in general, but so much harder to believe He will save the family member you have been praying for for years and years. It is easy to believe God will send missionaries to Africa, but so much harder to believe that God is sending you to Africa to be a missionary. It is easy to believe God could feed the 5,000, but so much harder to believe He will bring in that rent money that has been owed for two months. It is easy to believe God can forgive me for that little white lie, but so much harder to believe He can forgive me for the hate I've built up for years against one who hurt me so deeply years ago.
I think we have trouble at times surrendering areas of our heart to God---we like to keep those secret doors closed. If we reveal those areas and bring them out into the open, then we bring shame or guilt or fear or anger to the surface, and it's just too hard to deal with. But God says, have faith in me. Have faith in my love for you. Have faith that I can deal with that and together we can heal that area and open those doors to bring refreshing clean air to flow through. I created you for my pleasure, you don't have to hide from me. Open all your heart to me and together we can walk in the garden in pure fellowship.

Can we determine within ourselves to have faith that moves mountains? No! That's why He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. It is in the Holy Spirit's power alone that we can make any changes in our lives. It is our surrender by faith to believe that the power is there to claim. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to release the power to us that brings about change and conformity to Christ. Without faith it is impossible to please God. We cannot please God by our own determination. We need God, the Holy Spirit, to teach us how to surrender to His power. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher, our Comforter, our Guide to lead us to God's will for us. We just need to submit all of our hearts to Him.

Does God always honor obedience with good results? Yes! You may not visually see them this side of heaven, but if God leads us toward a goal, He will provide for us the power to accomplish that goal. If we surrender our all to Him, even if it means laying down our lives for Him, He will accomplish good from our obedience. God will reward our faith. The object of our faith is all important. If God is whom we have placed our faith, He will honor that faith with good. For all things work together for good to those that love the Lord. He didn't say some things, He said ALL things.

May your faith in God be increased more and more as you serve Him,

Friday, February 16, 2007

My Thoughts on Faith

The definition of faith in Hebrews 11 is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Faith is a gift from God: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is a gift from God..." (Eph. 2:8)

Faith comes by "hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

Every Christian has been given by God a "measure of faith." (Romans 12:3)

We can have little faith, such as a grain of mustard seed" and still accomplish great things.

We can ask for our faith to be increased as the disciples did.

Without faith it is impossible to please God.

By faith, the Old and New Testament saints listed in Hebrews 11, the Faith Chapter, were able to conquer kingdoms, administer justice, shut mouths of lions, quenched flames, escape the sword, weakness turned to strength, powerful in battle, routed foreign battles, women received back their dead, martyred for the cause of Christ, faced jeers and flogging, chained and put in prison, stoned, sawed in two, destitute, persecuted, mistreated, wandered in deserts.

Today as I studied these things, questions popped into my mind. Apparently the faith that saved us is given to us by God, it is a gift. We can ask for that gift of faith to be increased to serve Him better, and the way to increase our faith is by reading God's Word and getting to know Him more. Thus, does my faith depend on how much I read and grow, or does God just honor my reading and increase my faith as His gift to me?

James tells us that without works, faith is dead. So do my works determine my faith and how much I receive from God as His gift?

Can faith be compartmentalized? Can I have faith in great amounts concerning one area of my life, but have very little faith about certain other areas of my life?

Can we determine within ourselves to lay hold of the faith that moves mountains? Can we make the choices necessary to serve God by faith and still not have enough faith to accomplish that purpose because we failed to ask for more faith, or did not do enough good works to warrant more faith?

In our Sunday School lesson this week, the author defines faith in this way:
Faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it no matter how I feel because God promises a good result.

Does God always honor obedience with good results? If so, why are so many Christians martyred for their faith. When bad things happen in my life, is that a direct result of being disobedient to God in some fashion or lacking in faith in that area?

I would love to hear your thoughts on my questions. I know God gives wisdom to those that ask and I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on the subject of faith versus works.

Hoping to hear from you,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Our Valentine Picture

At our son's suggestion, we are posting our "prom" picture from our Valentine's Dinner last night given by the youth of our church. So here's the picture. Notice the beautiful lei that Dick gave me as my valentine gift.

A Very Beautiful Evening

Last night Dick and I (and many other adults) were treated to the most beautiful valentine dinner presented by the youth group of our church. We arrived with a long line of youth waiting to greet us at the entrance to the front door. Candles were placed along our pathway and youth warmly hugging and greeting us as we made our way to the front door.

Upon entering the church, we were awestruck at the way the vestibule of the church had been transformed to a beautiful valentine room filled with hearts, lace, trellises and centerpieces on tables with white tablecloths. We were greeted by a beautiful hostess in a gorgeous red muumuu that gave us a valentine wrapped chocolate lollipop and then led us to our table. We were then asked to come to a lovely decorated trellis to have our pictures taken (just like the prom). After meeting two couples at our table and getting to know them better, the dinner was then served after grace was said. We had a lovely tossed salad, delicious spaghetti and garlic bread, and last but not least, a warm brownie with ice cream AND whipped cream for dessert with hot coffee. We were served by waiters and waitresses dressed in white tuxedo shirts with little red bow ties and beautiful wam smiles.

Throughout the entire dinner we were totally blessed by entertainment from many members of the youth group. We had a band of three boys that played the drums, guitar and ukelele and sang to us. We had a beautiful hula performed by two girls to a beautiful praise song, We had three girls that sang "Great is Our God" accompanied by guitars in the background. We then had beautiful praise songs to end the program by four talented and beautiful youth that called themselves "The Remnant." Just as the emcee was closing the program, we were brought a copy of our picture taken earlier at the trellis for us to take home with us.

My husband has treated me to many magnificent valentine dinners over the past 44 years and I loved each and every one of them, but there was something so magnificent about last night's dinner. Our youth went far beyond "service with a smile" and served us with beautiful servants' hearts that blessed us far beyond description. Thank you so much, dear young people. You brought glory to God last night in your service to others, and blessed our hearts beyond measure.

So blessed by such love to us,

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is the day all over the world that love is expressed in some form another to those that mean the most to us. I pray you have already received your special helping of love today from the one you love and from the one who loves you. There is no greater joy than to know we are loved!

The greatest love that was demonstrated to all of us as created beings by our Heavenly Father was when He sent His One and Only Son to earth to die for our sins and assure us of eternal life forever with Him when we accept that gift of love.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

I pray you have known the Father's love through His Son for many many years! If you don't know that eternal love personally, today would be the perfect time to accept that gift of love He so freely offers you. It's the simplest thing you can do, and by far, the greatest decision you'll ever make.

So thankful for the Father's Love through Jesus Christ His Son,

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Message in a Bottle

Are you a romantic? Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. I think it's harder for women to express their love through gifts to their mates than it is for men. Men can always fall back on roses and chocolates and never fail to wow their mates. There's just something romantic and magical about flowers and candy that will always remain enduring and endearing. But it seems harder for women to find that one romantic thing for men that wows them.

I just read this suggestion in a magazine---it could be for both men and women to use to express their love to their significant other. Write a poem expressing the qualities you appreciate about your mate. If you're not good with poems, write a letter. If that is even harder, write a "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue" sentiment. Spray it with a whiff of beautiful perfume that your mate especially likes. Roll it up and tie both ends with a pretty ribbon, or a cord of string. Then find a beautiful empty bottle. It can be a small, colorful one, or a uniquely shaped one, or a container that speaks of the likes of your mate (such as a cigar box, a Harley Davidson tin, a can for tennis balls, or container for golf balls). Wrap it up and slip it under his pillow early in the morning before he wakes up (if it is small enough). If it's a bigger bottle, place it in front of his Valentine's breakfast dish at the kitchen table.

It never hurts to tell your mate why they are special to you. They may pooh-pooh that "romantic stuff", but I bet deep down they will glow with your thoughtfulness. We forget as women that men need to hear they are loved as much as we do.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Focus on Today

Sometimes I find myself beginning to wonder about the future and many questions will plague my mind. If I let them continue, I can find myself blue and discouraged and anxious. He wants us to find joy in today. Today is the day the Lord has made and we need to rejoice and be glad in it. In Psalm 103 we are told to forget not his benefits to us. In other words, we are to count our blessings. Some time ago, I wrote on the inside of my Bible:

"The Everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."

We are to fix our eyes upon Jesus. We are to bring every thought captive to Christ and His love for us. Would He promise never to leave us and then turn around and forsake us? Absolutely not. He is true to His Word and His character. So the questions that sometimes plague me I need to turn over to Christ's control claiming His sovereignty and resting in His love for me. Then peace will come and my soul will rest in the joy of today! He is in charge of my tomorrow. Who knows, today might be the day Jesus comes for us, then will we need to worry about tomorrow?? Don't think so!!!!

Hold fast and do not grow weary!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Our Eternal Clothes

I just read this interesting statement: "What we weave in time, we will wear in eternity." I've heard that our lives are like a tapestry that God weaves. As a weaver weaves a tapestry, the exterior, the side that everyone sees, might look flawless and display a picture of perfection, but by turning it over, you can see the ins and outs of the thread that look very disarrayed in order to make that perfect picture on the other side. The moral of the story is that God can take the mistakes of our lives and turn it into a beautiful picture if we allow Him to be the Master Weaver.

Have you ever thought about the various clothes mentioned in the Bible? In Genesis, God made Adam and Eve garments of skin to cover their nakedness. In Exodus, God gave very specific instructions on how the priestly garments were to be made and worn by the priests of the Tabernacle. In Genesis, Jacob made Joseph a coat of many colors because Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other sons. When Pharoah put Joseph in charge of the whole land of Egypt, Pharoah dressed Joseph in robes of fine linen. When David brought the ark of the covenant back to the City of David, David wore a linen ephod and danced in the streets. When Esther appeared before King Xerxes, she wore royal robes and the king was pleased with her. In the New Testament, John the Baptist wore clothes made of camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist as he went about proclaiming the coming Messiah. Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes when he was first born and was lain in a manger. The Rich Man in Luke 16:19 was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury and yet his riches could not give him eternal life. When Pilate ordered Jesus to be crucified, the soldiers clothed Jesus in a purple robe and placed a crown of thorns upon his head and mocked him. When Jesus died and was buried, he was buried in strips of linen and placed in a tomb. In Revelation, John describes the Rider called True and Faithful as being dressed in a robe dipped in blood. Also in Revelation, there was a great multitude wearing white robes holding palm branches in their hands. Their robes were made white in the blood of the Lamb.

In Isaiah 64: 6, we are told all our righteous acts are as filthy rags. We cannot make our rags clean on our own. But through the blood of the Lamb, He can wash our sins away and give us robes of righteousness, white as snow, and we can be among that great multitude in heaven wearing white robes. Not by anything we have done, but only by the sacrifice of Christ's shed blood on the cross can we be made righteous.

What are you weaving here in time? Filthy rags---or robes of white that will last for an eternity!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Zesty Zucchini Casserole

This recipe was given to me by a good friend many years ago. It is a healthy delicious vegetarian dish that might provide you with a change in your meal planning, if you'd like to try it.

Zesty Zucchini Casserole

1 cup brown rice (cooked)
4 medium zucchinis
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 lb. grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups sour cream
1 4 oz. can green chiles, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley
2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can tomato sauce, optional

Spread cooked rice in 9x13 Pyrex baking dish. Cover with thinly sliced zucchini, a layer of grated cheese (1/2 amount) and a layer of sliced tomatoes. Mix sour cream, vegetables, and seasonings together. If you like a more tomato taste, add a can of tomato sauce with sour cream mixture. Pour over tomatoes and top with remaining grated cheese. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Hope you enjoy it!

Daniel 1:12-16: "Please test your servants for ten days; Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead."

Healthy eating!

Friday, February 09, 2007

What a Tragedy!

A beautiful young woman of 39 tragically lost her life yesterday. The cause of her death is still undetermined, but her lifestyle was such that a short lived life could have been predicted. Her misplaced desires led to wrong choices and wrong actions that ultimately shortened her life, and the life of her dearly beloved son. Her life exhibited a self-centered core desiring for herself the spotlight, celebrity and fame; her greed led her to make a choice to gain millions and in the process, hurt a lot of people along the way. Her inability to handle the pressure of her greed and celebrity led her to a deadly use of drugs for herself and her 20-year-old son. She had a child out of wedlock that she is now unable to raise. If that isn't tragedy, I cannot imagine what could be worse. She could have led a much different lifestyle, but it was her own personal choices that led to her demise.

Let this be an example to you, young women, to carefully weigh your desires, your choices, and your future that you choose to make for yourself. It is YOUR choice! God promises a much different life for you when you choose HIS way, and not your own selfish way! "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." God is able to satisfy your deepest desires of belonging, love, acceptance and security without having to fall into Satan's trap of luring you into the world's traps. Satan blinds the eyes of the innocent toward a path of destruction. God did not create you to have your life end in the pits of hell. He created you with a purpose that will bring peace, joy, and lasting security. Look for that purpose and begin now to seek Him and His direction. He promises long life to those that follow Him.

Choose God's path---His promises are so much greater for a bright and fulfilling future!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

God's Encouragement through Others

I am constantly amazed at how God uses several avenues to get across the same message to me that he specifically wants me to hear. This has been one of those weeks where everything I pick up or read is centering on the same subject: encouragement vs discouragement. I admit that my basic nature tends to fall into discouragement easily. I tend to want everything to fall into perfect place, and when it doesn't, Satan uses the tool of discouragement to entangle me. I think I have grown in that I don't fall into that trap as easily as I used to, but if I'm not careful, I find myself in my "blue" mood, sometimes not even knowing the source.

At Christmastime, a very dear friend of mine gifted me with Charles Stanley's book "When the Enemy Strikes." When I opened the gift up and saw the title, I admit I flinched a little. My experience in the past has been when I delved into Satan's territory where I learn more of His wily ways, attack comes in some form or another. Satan does not want us to know him for the liar he is. I wasn't sure I was ready for it---it's easier to ignore, right? But last week I finally opened it up. Dr. Stanley is amazing in the way he presents his material in such a simplistic way as to get right down to the nitty gritty of where you are. One of Satan's greatest tools to hinder us is discouragement. If he can get us to think we are not worthy or cannot accomplish what God has set before us, he's won a tremendous battle within our hearts. We need to arm ourselves with the truth of God's Word to be victorious over Satan and his wiles.

Sunday our pastor at our church admitted he had been discouraged that week by an anonymous letter written and placed on his desk, and his message to his congregation was "Be encouraged." He gave us four causes for discouragement: fatigue, frustration, failure, and fear; and the four antedotes for discouragement are rest, reorganize, remember the faithfulness of God in the past, and then rally toward your mission. The key to discouragement is found in James 4:7 "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." His bottom line was---We can rarely control difficult people and circumstances, but we can always control our response. We never give up!

My dear daughter-in-law sent a wonderful note of encouragement to me out of the blue yesterday. I was not expecting it, but it was so timely in coming as to encourage me to continue on with my blogging. Satan loves to whisper discouragement in my ears when I don't physically see results. How blind of me not to realize that God will not allow his Word to return void. He will accomplish his purposes in the Word that goes out in His name. I am always humbled by the fact that He led me to do this blog in the first place. I just want only His purposes to prevail through it. Thank you, dear Emily, for your encouragement to keep on keeping on. I needed that yesterday.

Be encouraged. Resist the devil! Submit yourselves to God!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


In Matthew 5, Jesus sat his disciples down and taught them the beatitutes. The beatitudes are the blessings bestowed on us by God when we have certain character traits that please Him. I thought I would attempt to expound on them a little:

Blessed are the poor in spirit --we are beggars knowing that without God we are nothing. With him we have the promise of the kingdom of heaven, eternal life with our Lord and Savior, a home built by His hands forever.

Blessed are those who mourn---we are shamed by our sin, we wail and confess it before our Father, and He brings such comfort to us assuring us of his saving grace and sacrifice that paid for that sin. It is a comfort that outlasts all other comfort, knowing that we are right before God.

Blessed are the meek---we are humbled by the goodness of God, and choose to obey Him because of the promise of an inheritance of the New Earth. When he comes again, we will reign with Him and enjoy the fruits of the New Earth with Him.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness--we are a people who desire to be like Jesus, to comform to His image, to have His character traits in our lives, to have the fruits of the Spirit active in us. When we desire to be like Jesus to the point of hunger and thirst, Jesus promised that we would be filled, we would experience His likeness to the full.

Blessed are the merciful---we are forgiving toward others, and demonstrate the mercy of Jesus to those that have wronged us. His promise is that we will in turn receive mercy. How merciful is our God that He does not punish us as our sins deserve.

Blessed are the pure in heart--we exhibit personal purity in all that we do and say, and we will see God. What greater promise from Jesus than the promise of seeing our God face to face in all of His glory someday. We will see Him as He is in all of His holiness and purity and goodness and love. It is awesome, truly awesome to think of being with God forever.

Blessed are the peacemakers---we are called to live peaceably with all men, to dwell without hostility or anger toward another, to be the one that calls others to peace. And our promise? To be called the sons (or daughters) of God. Can you think of anything greater than to have God call you "My Child." I look forward to crawling up in the arms of Jesus and calling him "daddy."

May God's promises to you inspire you to be poor in spirit, mourning your sin and confessing it, to be meek, one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart and to a peacemaker. His promises are worth it!

"Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven"!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Perfection vs. Excellence

Perfection is being right.
Excellence is willing to be wrong.

Perfection is fear.
Excellence is taking a risk.

Perfection is control.
Excellence is spontaneous.

Perfection is judgment.
Excellence is accepting.

Perfection is doubt.
Excellence is confidence.

Perfection is pressure.
Excellence is natural.

Perfection is the destination.
Excellence is the journey.

I saw these wonderful contrasts between perfection and excellence. God doesn't expect us to be perfect---He is the only One who is perfect. But He does expect us to be "holy as he is holy." We will achieve perfection when we become as He is in eternity. When God gave each of us gifts to be used for His kingdom work, He told us through Paul in I Corinthians 12:31:
"But I earnestly desire the greater gifts, and I show you a still more excellent way." His more excellent way is to "love one another as I have loved you" and he defines love in the next chapter. Chapter 13 is called the love chapter in the Bible. We love each other by not always demanding our rights, but being willing to listen to the other side. We love each other by stepping out in our relationships and letting each other know that we are there for them---risky? Yes, but worth it when we make lifelong friends. We love each other by allowing our love to be spontaneous, not controlling and demanding. We love each other by not judging one another and pointing out our faults, but accepting, as Jesus accepted us unconditionally. We love each other by not doubting our capacity to love, but being confident that through Christ we can choose to love. Loving each other should not be pressure, but a natural outflow of our heart because we are being loved by Christ. Yes, perfection is our destination. When we see Christ face to face in glory, we will be as He is, perfect in every way, but for now, the journey is before us right here and now. Loving each other on the road to perfection is Christ's more excellent way and it's an awesome journey!!!

Choose to love---it's the most excellent way!

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Protection of Praise

The following quote by John Fischer was in our Sunday School bulletin yesterday. It is worthy for all of us to ponder.
The Protection of Praise - by John Fischer

"If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you." Proverbs 11:27 NLT

Praise is a valuable weapon against the enemy. War cries, frontal assaults, or special words of exorcism cannot drive back the forces of evil. Neither can the brandishing of the sword or the charge of the brigade. What keeps the powers of darkness at bay is the simple and true praise of the Savior from a heart set free.

Christians are engaged in a battle, but going on the warpath won't win this fight. It can even make matters worse. Christians can easily get caught up searching for evil in the world and trying to root it out, but by focusing on evil so much we bring the evil right to us. The best way to go after the enemy is with Christ on our minds and praise for him in our hearts. We do this unconsciously all the time. We sing a little song of praise as we go about our tasks, and unseen demons rush for cover. There are some things we are better off not knowing about.

Like the complicated etchings of thee classical German painter Albrecht Durer that depicts hosts of angelic beings and demons warring high in the sky over peaceful, tranquil landscapes, we have little knowledge of what is really going on at any given time in the heavenly realms around us. But we need not be conscious of this. We do not require sentries on the watch every hour. It is better if we don't. ("If you search for evil, it will find you!") We need only be in the presence and the praise of Jesus. The enemy flees at the mere sound of his name.

Jesus is our constant protection. He is our most valuable possession. The best protection against evil is a heart bent toward the good--seeking God in all things. Light does not fight with darkness. There is no wrestling match necessary. Light banishes darkness. They cannot occupy the same place at the same time."

Praise the Lord today and darkness will flee!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Some thoughts on Forgiveness

A devotional booklet that I just read by Gary Inrig on "What is True Forgiveness" spoke volumes to me this morning. I thought I would share just a few little nuggets that would behoove all of us to take to heart and apply when necessary.

"To forgive is to wipe the slate clean, graciously to cancel a debt. The word for forgive that Jesus uses has various meanings. It means 'to set free, release' and in certain contexts 'to wipe away, release.' A forgiven person has been set free from his past behavior and had his record wiped clean."

"What does forgiveness look like? Is it something we do automatically? Do we do it immediately? Is it a single act or a process? Do we wait until we feel ready to forgive? Do we require the other person to repent, or is forgiveness personal and internal, something we do for ourselves? If we forgive, does that mean we must immediaitely return to a persistently abusive relationship?"

I'm going to recap here most of the main points of the devotional. The main text of scripture that was used was Luke 17:1-10, mainly focusing on verses 3 and 4. "If a brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says 'I repent', forgive him."

First of all, the term "brother" indicates a fellow Christian. Equally important is that Jesus was talking about sin. This must not be passed over quickly. Many things may irritate, annoy, and upset us about someone else. Those things may require enduring; they do not involve forgiving. But we need to confront sin and rebuke the sin. If the brother repents, then we need to truly forgive.

We need to resist the temptation to keep those who have sinned against us in an emotional penalty box, making them serve endless hard times for their offenses.

Forgiveness never minimizes the reality of sin. Forgiveness doesn't involve excusing an act. If it can be excused, it needs to be understood, not forgiven. Forgiveness is about the inexcusable. Nor does forgiveness involve ignoring or denying sin, turning a blind eye to the misdeeds of another, or pretending it didn't happen. C.S. Lewis says: "Real forgiveness means steadily looking at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice." Repentence then involves more than a feeling of wrongdoing or regret, and produces more than an apology. Repentence produces a change of mind that produces a change in direction.

Jesus was not talking about "forgetting" sin as the old cliche goes "forgive and forget." God does not forget our sins. He would be less than God if his memory was capable of lapsing. Instead, he "remembers them no more." That means God does not remember those sins against us, that He does not treat us on the basis of our sins. We do not need to forget what we have done as much as we need to face what we have done. True forgiveness flows toward repentance. The ideal is clear: I am sinned against; I confront the offender; he sincerely declares his repentance; I declare my forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting to remember, but remembering to forget. Forgiveness is not a case of holy amnesia that wipes out the past. Instead, it is the experience of healing that drains out the poison from the wound."

Remember that forgiveness cancels all debts, but it does not eliminate all consequences. If we have sinned against another, there may be long-lasting consequences that occur. However, to rehearse and review the sin over and over to the person who wronged us is not true forgiveness. When we say "I forgive you", the choice is made to deal with the issue completely. It is as if the wrong has been buried and is dead forever. Just as God buries our sins into the deepest sea and remembers them no more, we need to forgive in the same manner. However, we are human. The offense done to us may crop up in our memory. That is what Christ meant when He said, we need to forgive seven times seven. Each time the offense comes to mind, we need to forgive and go on. Clara Barton, the nursing hero of the Civil War, had a friend mention a particularly cruel act done to her and asked her, "don't you remember?" Barton's answer: "I distinctly rmember forgetting that."

Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It's a permanent attitude. That is why a declaration of forgiveness needs to be accompanied by a commitment to loving acts toward the forgiven person, regardless of how much we struggle with unloving feelings.

I hope these thoughts on forgiveness penetrate your heart as they did mine this morning. It's unhealthy to cling to old hurts and allow them to rot away our very beings. How much better to forgive, be renewed and refreshed, and move on!!! It's only by Christ's power in us that we can do it, but do it we must!

Choose to forgive!