Flying Without Fear

Read:  Philippians 4:6-7
           1 Peter 5:7
           Romans 10:9
My uncle was a pilot and flight instructor.  Very well known in flying circles.  As an FAA flight instructor, he taught people from all over the United States how to fly.  We didn’t get to see him very often since he lived in California and we lived in Illinois.  He would come out to visit us every year or so, and the greatest thing in the world to me was that he flew himself!  Unheard of in my small world back in the 1970’s in Southern Illinois!
If weather and time permitted, we would all go up to the Benton air field where he kept his plane while he was visiting, and he would give all us kids a ride.  Adults went too.  Don’t let them fool you into thinking they weren’t as excited to fly as we were.
I never remember being scared to fly.  I should have been.  I had never flown before and it would be several years before I would fly on a commercial flight.  The first time I flew commercially was with my uncle in the seat next to me.  I remember asking if he could fly this big plane.  “I could”, he laughed, “but let’s hope there isn’t a need for it”.  He proceeded to explain to me all the things going on in the cockpit as we flew to California.
The way I see it if you want to fly without fear, fly with an experienced, seasoned pilot.  A pilot who knows the plane and how to handle it in all situations, a pilot who knows where he’s going and can fly without being able to visually see the ground in case fog rolls in, a pilot who is able to handle the plane and keep calm in emergencies, and in general, just knows what he’s doing.  I wasn’t afraid because my uncle was that pilot.  I had complete trust in him.
Life is much like flying when you think about it.  It’s so easy to live our lives in fear—fear of failure; fear of being accepted; fear for our children, finances, health, aging parents; fear of an uncertain political future.  The list can go on and on.  What we need is Someone we can trust who knows how to handle and guide us through all of life’s fearful situations.  That Someone is Jesus.
Listen to some of the promises from the Bible:   “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).  “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35).  “I am the way” (John 14:6).  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  “Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1).  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25).  ”I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4).  This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of promises given to those who love, trust, and have a relationship with our Almighty Savior Jesus Christ. Are you tired of trying to navigate life by yourself?
Are you surrounded by storms and living in fear? Seek a relationship with Jesus.  He is ready and willing to take control and guide you through even the most trying circumstances of life.  He wants you to lead a worry-free, fear-free life by trusting in Him.  Let Him be your pilot!


Free Books

Read:  Ephesians 2:4-9
            John 3:16
I love to read.  Whenever I get a few minutes, you’ll likely find me reading.  The ability to read a book on electronic devices has further fueled my reading passion.  Now I can read anywhere and anytime as long as I have my phone with me.  The kind folks at Amazon have devised a way to track what type books I love to read, and I am given multiple daily opportunities to purchase those books through notifications on Facebook and email.  The books are always offered at a reduced price.  Many times they are $1.99, 99 cents or my favorite price – FREE!
There is one thing about these greatly reduced books, and it doesn’t take long to figure out the strategy in providing great deals.  The offered book may be one in a series.  Their hope is you can’t possibly read this book and not buy the whole series.  The rest of the books will not be at a reduced price!  Maybe the hook is to get you to buy more books by the same author.  Once again, you probably won’t be offered a reduced price.   While the offered books may be a great buy, I know there’s more.  One book won’t be enough.  I’ll need to buy more to feel satisfied.
Jesus has offered us a free gift–the gift of salvation provided to us through his grace.  There is no charge.  It is completely free for all those who will accept his gift.   There’s nothing we need to purchase.  It’s not the first step in a series that will eventually cost more than you want to pay.  He’s the author, and he is giving you his best with this first and unlimited offer.
Check it out.  Read the above listed verses.  See for yourself all that is included in this wonderful, free gift of salvation.


Just Sheep

Read:  Psalm 23
I’ve been thinking about sheep lately.  It would seem a strange subject to think about for someone who has no interest in, or knowledge about, sheep.  I’m not sure I’ve even seen a real live one.  When I think of sheep, I picture them white and fluffy and cute.  But I do know they come in colors.  At least two colors.  Everyone has heard of the “black sheep” when referring to those relatives who may not have a sterling reputation so I’m guessing there must be at least black and white sheep.
I did a little reading on sheep and found out a few things:
The Good:
*Have excellent memories and can remember individual sheep and humans for years.
*Like to be in a group.
*Friendly and form strong bonds with other sheep, goats and people.
The Not So Good:
*Followers—the herd will follow one single sheep into danger.
*Prone to wander off and become lost, even when all of their needs have been supplied.
*Defenseless in danger.  They don’t have any way to fight; no claws or talons, they can’t run fast, especially if their wool is long and wet, and they have no way to scare an attacker off with frightening sounds, like a roar or a vicious bark.
The Bible mentions sheep and shepherd 247 times.  I did not count them personally.  Hopefully the information I looked up was correct!  But it is a fact that the Bible talks about sheep a lot.  In fact we are called sheep!  Really.  Why can’t we be lions, tigers or bears?  Think about this:  lions, tigers and bears don’t need nor want someone to watch over and care for them.  God made them to be independent by giving them ways to fend for and protect themselves.
Sheep need a shepherd to care for them.  They will not survive on their own.  As much as we would like to think that we are self-sufficient, needing nothing and/or no one to help and guide us, it’s just not true.  We are sheep:  defenseless, wondering, following.  God knew that and in His great loving kindness, provided a Shepherd, His Son, Jesus.  We are made to follow Jesus and live under his protection.
In the above passage, we see a beautiful picture of a loving Shepherd.  He has provided all that is necessary for the physical needs of the sheep, clear clean water and lush green pastures.  He protects them when danger is near, guarding and comforting them with his rod and staff.  The Shepherd walks through the dark valley with them.  They are not left to fend for themselves during the darkest times in their journey.  With enemies watching from a distance, the Shepherd prepares a table for the sheep.  They may be watching, but they are powerless to interfere because of the presence of the Shepherd.
Embrace and enjoy the love of the Shepherd.  Follow Him.  Anything less will leave your life lacking peace, joy and the protection that only He can give.


Do You Live Like a Pauper?

Read:  Ephesians 1:7-8, 18; 2:6-7; 3:8, 16
           Colossians 2:27

Have you ever heard of Hetty Green (November 21, 1834 to July 3, 1916)?  She has an amazing story.  Look her up some time when you have a few spare minutes.  Here are a few interesting details from her life:

  • She was the richest woman in America during the Gilded Age. A time when all other financiers were men.
  • At her death, she had taken a family inheritance that was roughly $5 million and turned it into an estimated net         worth ranging between $100 and $200 million (that’s equal to about $2.3 to $4.6 billion in 2019).
  • She dealt mainly in real estate, railroads and mines.
  • The City of New York borrowed money from her several times to keep the city afloat.
It was an amazing amount of wealth at the turn of the 20th century.  Imagine what you would do if you had that kind of money.  What would be different about your life?  Would you own a mansion, maybe two or three, and travel the world?  Have staff to cook and clean and take care of your every need?  Maybe a garage full of expensive cars and your own private jet?  Get the best medical treatment available for illness?  I’m pretty sure I would enjoy the things great wealth can buy!
The trouble with Hetty Green is that while she was known for her great wealth, she was, also, as well known for her stinginess.  It was said she never turned on the heat or used hot water.  She wore one old black dress and rode in an old carriage.  Her meals mostly consisted of pies that cost 15 cents.  One story says that she spent all night searching her carriage for a stamp worth two cents and would only have the dirtiest parts of her dresses (hem) washed to save money on soap.  She carried cheap broken biscuits in an old handbag to eat so she wouldn’t have to buy a meal in a restaurant.  She tried to have her son, Ned, treated for a broken leg at a free clinic for the poor.  She refused to have a hernia operation for herself because the cost was $150.  There’s more.  Look it up for yourself.
Do you have wealth beyond measure at your fingertips but live like a pauper?  You’re probably thinking something like, “Don’t be absurd.  I would never live the life of a pauper with wealth like that at my disposal!”  You’re right.  Very few of us would go to such extremes if we possessed the means to live comfortably without a care. But how many Christians live the life of a pauper when the Bible clearly tells us in the above verses that we have a Heavenly Father who has wealth beyond the human imagination?  God the Father has made us rich in Jesus Christ.  Through Christ, we share in the riches of God’s grace, His glory, His mercy, and “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  Unsearchable!  What is the depth of riches that are unsearchable?  How is that even possible that God has given us access to these “unsearchable riches”?  Our Father is rich, and He has made us rich in His Son.
Take some time to look up the verses listed above.  Mediate on them.  Search for other verses that tell of the richness of our inheritance in Christ Jesus.  Ask God to show you how to live in the spiritual riches He has already provided for you, that you have access to right now, and quit living the life of a spiritual pauper!


Prayer & God’s Word

Read:    1 Thessalonians 5:17
             Colossians 4:2
             Romans 12:12
             Luke 18:1
For those who were raised in church, we were taught to pray from childhood.  Our first prayers might have started something like this, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” or “God is great, God is good…”
Our childhood prayers turned into teenage prayers.  Maybe sounding something like this, “Please help me pass this test!  If You will just help me this one time, I promise I will always study for every test!”  How about this one,  “If You would just let me go to homecoming with Bob, I would serve you in the darkest jungles of Africa—or where ever there is a dark jungle—for the rest of my life!”
Our teenage prayers turned into adult prayers.  They became more urgent.  Maybe involving finances, “Please help us pay our bills.  There’s NEVER enough money!”  Possibly marriage, “Marriage isn’t what I thought it would be.  My husband is no longer the man I married!”
The contents of our prayers changed over the years, but maybe the power we thought we should see in our prayer life didn’t seem to be much different than when we were teenagers.  Or even children!  Interesting.   Read the scripture references above.  The Bible is pretty clear that we are to pray.   So if we are to pray, and we are, how do we have power in our prayers?  How does our prayer life become a vibrant and even exciting part of our spiritual walk?
E. M. Bounds (1835-1913) said, “The Word of God is the food by which prayer is nourished and made strong.”
If our prayers are not as powerful as we would like.  If we seldom see answers to our prayers, could it be we don’t get the proper nourishment?  Do we spend time in the Word, learning what it says, following its guidance?  How can we effectively pray if we don’t know what the Bible says?  You don’t need to be a theologian.  Just spend time reading & studying the Word each day—letting God speak to you through His Word. As we become familiar with the Bible and what it says, our prayers will begin to align with it, and that’s the goal.
To know God’s will and follow His commands are imperative to a healthy, vibrant prayer life.  But you must know His Word to know His commands and what His will is. We will begin to see our prayers answered as our prayers become more closely aligned to His Word.  Our desires will change.  Our focus will change.   In other words, we will see our prayers answered because our WILL will become His will for our lives.  Jesus Himself, as our ultimate example, prayed, “Not my will, but Your will”.
Prayer and the Bible are so tied together.  A successful Christian life hinges on prayer, and prayer hinges on the Bible.


Well Done, Faithful Servant

Read:  Matthew 25:14-30
Our church lost a good friend a couple weeks ago.  As I thought about this man and heard the words and tributes spoken, I realized that he epitomized the Christian life.  Joey Mocaby was known to all, but maybe not for the reasons one usually attains notoriety.  He wasn’t rich or powerful.  He didn’t drive a fancy car (he didn’t drive at all!) or live in a fine house.  The most outstanding thing about Joey was that he used the talents God gave him in a simple, unassuming way.  A friend of his, Kim Randolph, spoke at his funeral.  These are the words she used to honor his memory.
   Simple:  he had a simple life and a simple faith.  He simply loved God.
   Faithful:  he was faithful to the church and its people, especially the kids and youth.
   Genuine:  he acted the same toward church members as he did toward those outside the church.
   Humble:  he never talked about himself unless you asked him.
   Loyal:  from the time he joined the church, he was loyal to every staff member.  He was loyal to God.
   Appreciative:  he was always thankful for any gesture of kindness toward him, no matter how small.
In the above scripture passage, we read the story of three servants who were given talents to be used while the master was away.  Two servants used their talents to increase the wealth of the master. One servant did not.  He was afraid of the master and buried the talent he was given.  He had not done even the smallest amount of work to increase what he was given, thereby increasing the riches of the master. Joey, in his own way, showed us how easy it is to use the talents God has given us to increase His kingdom.  He did it in such a way that most might have thought he surely buried his talent.  His strategy?  He didn’t have one.  He simply used what God had given him in the course of his daily life.  He worked hard for each activity our church sponsored.  He greeted us at the door each Sunday, brightening our day.  He prayed for those in need and the needs of the various ministries of the church.  He was concerned for the people around him.  He loved and praised his Savior.  Most of all, he was a witness of God’s love.  He used his talent simply, but he enriched the kingdom of God mightily.  I am quite sure the first words he heard as he entered the gates of Heaven were, “Well done good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”
What about you?  What talents has God given you that are lying around unused or buried beneath the everyday busyness of life?  Or are you trying so hard to figure out how to serve God that you miss the simple everyday acts that could enrich the lives of those around you; kind words of encouragement, a caring spirit, love, work that eases the load of others and increases the kingdom of God?  Most of all do you have a witness in word and deed that draws others to Christ?
As you read through the scripture passage above, take inventory of your own life.  Make it your goal to use the talents given you to help enlarge the Master’s kingdom that you, too, may hear those precious words at the end of your journey here on earth, “Well done good and faithful servant!”


A Mouse or a Warrior?

Read:  Ephesians 6:10-18
           1 Peter 5:6-9
Most days at our house are pretty quiet.  You could say downright boring.  But last week, we had some excitement.  The first mouse of the fall season found its way into our house.  That’s when my Musophobia kicked in.  You can pretty much tell when I’m having a full-blown attack by the screaming.  The mouse ran behind a bookcase in the bedroom.  My mom went to set a trap while I kept my eye on our little intruder.  (I don’t set traps. Yuk!)  Every time he would come out, I would scream, and he would run back behind the bookcase.  Finally, mom got the trap set and put it next to the bookcase.  This time I controlled my phobia and waited–silent and still.  It only took two or three minutes before WHAM!  He was caught.  My mom emptied the trap.  (I don’t empty traps. Yuk!)  The end of his reign of terror.
Later I got to thinking about our little intruder.  There was really no reason for him to have gotten into that trap.  All he had to do was use what God gave him to get out of such situations: his speed and size.  He could easily have run right past me and been gone.  The fact is, the noise I made that scared him so badly was not the danger.  The danger came with the silence.  The trap was set, and I no longer needed to distract him.
Satan uses similar tactics in our lives.  He loves to distract us with problems, noise and busyness.  Things that keep us so focused that we fail to see the trap he has been setting for us.  Busyness that says, “you’ve got too much to do to spend time with God.”  Finances that scream out, “there’s not enough!”  Children that have drifted from God, and we hear, “they will never come back!”  Illness that says, “if God loved you, He wouldn’t allow this!”  The list goes on and on because the truth is, Satan is very good at what he does.  Once he has the trap set, we may no longer hear the “noise” and think all is well.  The fear is gone.  It’s safe.  But watch for these traps: Do we find that our peace is gone?  Our faith is weak?  We have allowed things to come into our lives that have moved us away from God and sin has become a dividing wall?  There’s no hope in our situation?
God has given us what we need to stand against Satan and his tactics.  It’s full-on, battle-proof armor.  Not only has God given us this armor, he tells us exactly how to use it in the above passage of Scripture.  You see, Satan does go about as a roaring lion, making a lot of noise.  He wants to devour us!  He’s powerful and will certainly “devour” us if we try to fight against him in our own might.  But the armor we have as God’s children is completely trustworthy.  God never meant us to go into battle with Satan alone so He provided all we need to be overcomers.  To stand firm as the battle heats up.  Each piece of armor has a specific use and when all six pieces are in place, there is no area of your life where Satan can gain the victory.  We are protected against his traps.
Are you tempted to believe his lies?  Put on the belt of truth and the helmet of salvation.  Is he attacking your faith?  Pick up the shield of faith.  Is he trying to steal your peace?  Put on the shoes of peace.  Is he tempting you live an unrighteous life that doesn’t line up with God’s expectations for us?  You need the breastplate of righteousness.  And don’t ever go without the sword of the Spirit.  Always keeping your armor shined up with prayer.
The war rages.  The traps are set.  So, keep that armor on and never forget that as adopted sons and daughters in the family of God, we stand firm in VICTORY!


Dead Trees and New Life

Read:  Colossians 3:1-17
I love trees.  When we moved into our house there were only two or three very small trees, years away from providing any shade.  I love sycamore trees.  I’m not sure why.  I’ve always been intrigued by those big leaves.  Maybe that’s it.  Anyway, I started my husband on a program of tree planting for the first few years we lived in our home.  He was thrilled with this project.  (Of course, he wasn’t!)  Our yard now has several trees that provide a fair amount of shade.  He is thrilled with the fact that he now has some shade when he mows!
My favorite tree in the yard happens to be a sycamore.   Most of the trees in our yard have been transplanted from other parts of our property, and this is one of the transplants.  When I spotted this one, I asked if we could plant it right in front of the house where it would be the focal point of the yard.  It was a perfect sycamore.  Already growing straight and with a beautiful shape and covered with those big leaves. But something went wrong.  It died.  Just like that.  One day it was wilted. Then it was dead.  Before we had a chance to take it out, some friends of ours were visiting and saw the tree.  “Don’t take it out, just cut the dead part off and let it grow back from that little shoot growing at the bottom.  It will make a great tree from that.”  I didn’t see how it could.  It was surely going to be crooked and not amount to much.  We would be cutting the whole tree off!  But, with nothing to lose, we took his advice and cut the main tree off and left the little shoot.  Funny thing.  He was right! That tree is straight as an arrow, it is 20 feet tall or more and has the biggest leaves on it.  It’s beautiful and giving some pretty decent shade.
This tree is my favorite because it reminds me that new and beautiful growth can come from getting rid of the dead.  In the above passage Paul tells us to put to death what belongs to our earthly nature:  sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.  We are no longer to walk in anger, wrath, malice, slander and filthy language.  We are not to lie, we are to put off the old self with its practices.  All these things are disobedience which lead to God’s wrath.
We are to put on a new self.  We are to be renewed in the image of our Creator.  Our new selves have a whole different look:  compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.   What a difference.  We are God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved!
Our new self should be filled with love.  Christ’s love.  What a difference His love makes.  When we allow ourselves to be renewed into the image of our Creator, a new and beautiful life emerges.  This new life is filled with the Peace of God.  There is no understanding it, but you can experience and feel it!  This is a life that draws people to its “shade” where we can share with others the abundant life available through our loving Savior.
The tree we planted had the potential to be a beautiful tree. But it was only by cutting away the dead could the beauty emerge.  How about your life?  Is it filled with God’s love and peace or are there dead areas that need cut away?  Let Him make you over in His image that you may become more like Him.  No matter what it may look like now, there is a beautiful life waiting for you through the work of God’s Holy Spirit.


The Last Chapter

Read:  John 3:16
           Matthew 7:13-14
           John 14:5-6
           Romans 3:23-24
           Acts 16:31
My granny loved to read.  I, also, love to read and can remember many enjoyable days I spent sprawled on her couch or on the floor reading while she did.  She had what I thought was a peculiar way of reading a book.  She would read the last chapter and then go back to chapter one and read the entire book through to the end.  I, on the other hand, did not read the last chapter until I had read all the chapters that came before.  Then I would read the final chapter in its proper place!
I’m not sure why she did this.  Maybe it was more enjoyable for her to know if the hero would get his lady love in a romance novel or if he would survive until the end of the book in a thrilling mystery.  But whatever the reason, that was how she enjoyed reading a book.
As I was thinking about this the other day, I thought about a phrase we hear in relation to the Bible, “We know how the story ends!”  How true that is, and it’s a comfort to those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus to know exactly how the story DOES end.  In His Book, God has made sure that we are aware of His plans and the eternity He is preparing for us.
How many people will tell you they know how it all ends and where they will spend eternity?  They are aware of a heaven but have no idea what is required to enter there.  They may think that an eternity in heaven is theirs because that’s where “good people” go, and they are “a good person”.  Unfortunately for those who believe that way, heaven is not entered by just being good.  There is a requirement to live there for eternity.
Jesus told his disciple Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”.  One of the foundational verses in the Bible tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  There is only one way to heaven and that is by placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, accepting him as Lord of your life and his blood as atonement for your sin.  A debt none of us could ever pay without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
The Bible makes it very clear what we must do to have eternal life in heaven with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  There’s nothing wrong with reading the last chapter of a book to try and gauge how enjoyable the book will be and if it’s worth investing the time to read it.  But eternity is too important to base your decision on partial or even false information.  Don’t get to the last chapter of your life and find that you skipped over the most important chapters.  When eternity comes, you don’t get to go back through the chapters of your life and rewrite the ending.  Your eternal decision has already been made.



Read:   Luke 12:13-21
            Matthew 6:19-21
Back in the late 70’s I went to visit my cousin in Southern California.  We took a tour of the Universal Studios backlot.
We saw the fishing village and the shark from “Jaws”, the house the Munsters lived in, the street used in the filming of the movie “The Sting” (you have to be pretty old to remember that one) and a town square that had been used in lots of TV shows and movies and would soon become even more famous in the “Back to the Future” movies.
I had so much fun that I still remember it today.  But the main thing I remember from that tour was this:  It was all fake!  I could be the Incredible Hulk in Hollywood.  Those huge boulders were styrofoam!  I could have wrestled the “Jaws” shark and won.  He was a rather cheap looking, overgrown mechanical fish!  When our tram made a turn, there was nothing behind all those storefronts on that backlot street.  Nothing was real!  There was no substance to anything there.  It was a facade, all smoke and mirrors.
In the passage of scripture mentioned above, the Rich Fool was very wealthy.  He was also greedy.  He had so much he needed more storage for his wealth.  Funny how there’s no thought that he might share from his abundance with those who were in need.  In his heart, he had no thought of God or his fellow man.  In verse 14 Jesus says, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”  His prosperity had choked out the Word of God in his life, it had created a snare and temptation to him, and most of all, given him a false sense of security.
He had put his trust in his possessions.  In verse 19 he says, “Then I’ll say to myself, ‘you have many goods stored up for many years.  Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.'”  It’s so easy to allow ourselves to be fooled into putting our trust in a job, bank account, relationships, those tangible things we can see.  These things aren’t bad.  In fact, they are good, even necessary for our earthly existence.  But what happens when we have placed our trust in things of this earth and paid little heed to eternity?  The Rich Fool placed his trust in his financial success and the things he had accumulated. Then in verse 20 we read, “But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life is demanded of you.  And the things you have prepared–whose will they be?”
How sad.  Since the book of Luke was penned, this man who thought he had it all has been known as a Rich Fool.  What about you?  Where are the treasures you have stored?  Will you be labeled like this man was?  A fool?  Verse 21:  “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”  The tragedy of this is that this man left great wealth behind where it could do him no good, and faced an eternity without God.
Take inventory of your heart today.  Are you storing up treasure in heaven “where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal”?  Is your life built on a facade (an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality.)  Or are you rich toward God, cultivating eternal treasures?