Encouragement – “see pg 317”

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he has not. ~2 Corinthians 8:12.

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This scripture reminds me of the humble lifestyle of my childhood.  Dad was a good provider for our family, and God blessed us in all the things that count.  But there were definitely times when Dad felt that he just wasn’t “Living the American Dream”.  All that changed when God opened new doors in Dad’s life.  Because Dad was willingly obedient to God’s calling, our entire family has reaped the earthly and the spiritual reward for four generations.

I remember that Dad regretted not having a college education.  I could tell by his conversations with me growing up that he seriously wanted his children to get more education that he had.  Yet he was so gifted that he achieved far more in his brief life than I claim for my own life (having more formal education and outliving him by almost 20 years).  Dad used what God blessed him with by tithing, supporting gospel ministries, teaching Sunday School classes, helping build youth camps and church buildings with limited materials, actively serving as an ordained deacon in his local church, and by sharing God’s Word with ordinary folks he met in ordinary circumstances.  Dad made sure he was the spiritual leader of our family.  He declared Sunday as “Family Day” and took us to church; then afterward he took us on picnics all over the place.  He became a pilot and flew us to uninhabited places you wouldn’t believe just so we could enjoy hot dogs together on a deserted beach; then beach comb until sunset.  When he could no longer fly his plane due to health reasons he made sure it went into service in the mission fields of the far north Alaskan bush villages.  Dad really took care of the important stuff.  I am convinced that God can and does call each person without regard for attributes that men would esteem.  When I observe believers who share their faith in amazing ways through giving, music, preaching, teaching, charity, care giving, or a myriad of other ways, I am struck by God’s love for diversity in His chosen.

It must be a very sad thing to God when believers are unwilling to use what they DO have in service for the Gospel.  When we make excuses for not sharing Jesus, it is such a paradox!  If we truly believed that we have no skills, talents, or resources with which to share the Bible message, what about our mouths?  Wouldn’t our verbal skill be better used for glorifying Jesus through witness than for making those excuses?

Sometimes God has opened doors of opportunity to me but when I demonstrated willingness He shut the doors.  Was He just testing my willingness?  Was my faith alone acceptable, even though I was poorly equipped to handle the assignment?  God is so kind and merciful.  He never expects us to do more than we are able at the time.  One particular example of God’s tenderness was revealed to me personally about ten years ago.  A new job opportunity that I felt was God’s will for me came out of nowhere and I accepted the job.  I was so excited and hurriedly packed my bags, as the job location was in a remote area of Alaska.  Then suddenly God let me know that I should not go.  I was so confused until I realized that God had slammed that door shut out of love for me.  I had been depressed and needed more healing before leaving home and family.  He just wanted to know that I was willing.  My readiness was acceptable, but He would not expect from me what I did not possess.  Later, God blessed me with complete healing of depression and then opened new doors for service to Him.  Has your willingness been tested?  What do you lack that God is not great enough to provide or help you to overcome?

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28 KJV

Even though I had memorized this verse as a child, I seem to have missed one important word in the verse – theThem who are “the” called” is so much more personal than ”them who are called”.  I am so honored to have a new designation; to be a member of a select group; I am a part of “the called”, not just “called”.

Talk about encouragement!  I feel so dumb that I missed that for so long.  Thanks, Dad.

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There is more of Dad’s New Testament message ahead in Encouragement  – “see pg 343”.  If you don’t want to miss the next part of the message just follow along here at importantstuff.live.

Encouragement – “turn to pg 296”

The message I discovered that Dad carefully wrote in his little New Testament Bible is so simple and yet so precious.  It is precious to me, of course, because my own Dad wrote it; but he wrote it for himself, not me.  It is only God’s grace that inspired the Apostle Paul to write his encouraging letters to the church in Corinth, and only God’s divine hand that preserved His Word for centuries to encourage us today.  Dad was only His instrument; just like Paul.

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So Dad circled verse 17 of I Corinthians 9 on page 296 in his Bible: For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  The Apostle Paul explained this statement in detail clear to the end of chapter 9.  We all pretty much understand “of my own will”.  Paul was a free man.  He was a Roman citizen, which guaranteed him certain rights under Roman law to live his life the way he pleased.  He was slave to no man.  Americans enjoy similar freedom under our “Bill of Rights” today.  Paul chose to share his faith in Jesus.  He was not under force to witness – But what about reward?

He explained that all participants run a race, but only one wins the prize (verse 24).  If the race is run willingly, then the participant is much more likely to win.  Win what?  In this case, SOULS.  Yes, more saved souls are the reward!  It’s not for heavenly crowns, positions of honor, medals or status as an Apostle or church leader.  Paul’s message of “running the race” for Christ was written in order to encourage every witnessing believer by teaching 1the proper way to do it and 2the right reason for doing it.  I don’t know about you, but I am vastly more encouraged by success than by failure.  The Apostle Paul is basically saying:  Join up and run, but run smart; don’t just run because you learned about “The Great Commission” and feel compelled to serve Jesus.  Yes, it is a very big deal, because Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” ~ Mark 16:15

That makes it the highest priority in this life for the believer.  Jesus wants us to know that the stakes are high.  I firmly believe that Dad was keenly aware of it.  Obviously, he was determined to stay the course not only to win the race, but like Paul, to bring more lost souls across the finish line with him.

But do we share our testimony as just a duty, or willingly?  Paul cautions, “if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.”  In other words, our Master has commissioned us to perform this duty regardless.  Our efforts have less chance of winning souls for Jesus if people see that our words lack enthusiasm.  There is no fire in the belly; no burden for the lost.  Instead of achieving reward for more souls saved, we are diminished by the less.  “I am entrusted” means each believer is accountable either way.

Are our hearts truly burdened for the lost?  Even though we have been freed by the blood of Jesus, have we made ourselves a servant to all?  Don’t be timid in sharing God’s Word.  We can’t all be missionaries serving in foreign lands.  God knows that we can sow seeds and reap a harvest for His kingdom right in our own communities.  God will provide opportunity because Jesus gave His life for this message to be shared with all who will listen – or not listen.  Seize opportunities that the Holy Spirit creates for witnessing.  Remember that believers are only responsible to act on opportunities; and then let the Holy Spirit do His work.  II Timothy 1:7 is the most encouraging verse to the timid believer: For God has not given us a spirit of fear (timidity in some Bible translations), but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 

 

Consider the “Parable of the Pounds” in Luke 19:12-27:  A certain nobleman traveled to a far country to receive a kingdom and then return (Jesus).  He left ten pounds of money (Gospel) with ten servants.  When he returned he found that nine had increased the master’s money (Shared the Gospel), but one servant had not.  He had hidden the master’s pound in a napkin (gotten saved and then kept the Good News all to himself), saying, 21“For I FEARED thee, because thou art an austere man” (excuses and blaming the Master!).  The master judged the servant by taking the pound (Gospel) he had entrusted to him and giving it to the servant who had increased his master’s one pound by ten pounds (Evangelist) – Sort of like taking away what few souls may have surrendered to Jesus as a result of one timid believer, and crediting those souls to Billy Graham’s service record.  AYIYIYI!  When the other nine servants questioned the master’s judgement, 26“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

I think I have written somewhere previously that God sets aside those who do not serve Him.  After repeated attempts by the Holy Spirit to energize a person to live for the Gospel, that person may resist; won’t let his light shine; has no salt.  This grieves the Holy Spirit until God just sets that person aside to live out the rest of his or her life in worldly pursuits; thereby suffering spiritual loss.

I don’t want to be set aside.  Thank you, Dad, for circling verse 17 on page 296 of your Bible.  Your witness is still bearing fruit!

“If we have Christ, we have nothing to fear when sharing the Gospel. We may not be trained speakers, gifted salesmen, or educated preachers or teachers. But if we’re empowered with the Spirit’s love, we’ll be effective. We can’t win others through our personalities, persuasive techniques, or promotional campaigns, though the Lord can use some of those things. The real secret is the Spirit-empowered love and power, and a sound mind that presents a hope-filled Gospel to a downtrodden world.” ~ Dr. David Jeremiah

Lord, may my witness be as powerful as the blasting shofar; and full of Your love, not “words as a tinkling cymbal”.  Give me a fearless and sound mind; that I may recognize and respond to the opportunities for witnessing that You set before me today; and know that I believe in Your call.  I am your willing servant.  Thank you, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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There is more coming soon of Dad’s New Testament message on Encouragement  – “see pg 317”.  Don’t miss the next part of the message by following importantstuff.live.

Encouragement – “see pg 194”

God sends encouragement to the believer in amazing ways through His Word.  Personal witness can be challenging as we share our testimony of faith to others.  Sometimes we don’t see the fruit of what we have sown; but never doubt God’s authority over growing His Gospel.  Our personal abilities, opportunities and circumstances to witness for Him pale by comparison to the power of His Word.  Do you doubt the power of His Word in your life?  God’s Word reaches across both distance and time to bring fruit to the labors of soul winning believers, as I am about to show you.

My father was a Christian who shared his testimony with many people during his lifetime.  Although he passed on to be with Jesus almost 40 years ago, God recently used my dad’s strong faith to encourage me quite unexpectedly when I found my dad’s pocket New Testament lying on a book shelf undisturbed.  I placed it there years ago.  The condition of this little Bible is beyond use, as its binding is a rubber band holding the pages together.  I thought its only use was a keepsake – a cherished memory of Dad.

For some reason I felt led to open the Book, just out of curiosity perhaps, to see if Dad underlined a scripture or left something of him inside.  What I found was a treasured message from my Heavenly Father pointed out by Dad that brought tearful joy to my discouraged heart.  Isn’t it amazing how God zaps us once in a while with His love?

Before I reveal the message, I want to share that Dad witnessed about the Gospel to just about anyone who would listen.  He didn’t drink alcohol, but would visit the local taverns in town to share Jesus with the bar patrons.  He worked in the oil fields of California and Alaska and shared his faith with co-workers; a rough crowd by some standards.  He frequently was met with ridicule for being a Christian, but he was not dissuaded.  He encouraged some men he knew to put God first in their lives if they wanted to have successful marriages.  There were many instances of divorce happening at the time.  Alaska was tough on marriages in the 1960’s.  The lack of conveniences drove many wives to leave their husbands for civilization back in the “lower 48”.  One man in particular scoffed at Dad’s notion that God’s love could mend a marriage.  Anyway, that is just a brief glimpse of my father’s personal testimony throughout his life.  He stood strong for Jesus; was not dissuaded; but now I see evidence in his little Bible that he may have been discouraged at times.  So what did he do about it?

Dad searched out God’s Word for encouragement and outlined God’s answer in the Bible so he could refer back anytime he was feeling rejected, tired, or defeated by the enemy.  I also believe that it was God’s plan for Dad to leave the following message so that I would find it so many years later; so that I would be encouraged; and so maybe whoever reads this will be encouraged to strive to be an overcomer – as Jesus plainly instructed believers eight times in the Book of Revelation.Hollis1

When I opened Dad’s little New Testament, on the very front inside cover was his name and the instruction written in his own handwriting: “see pg 194”.
My first reaction was, “REALLY?”  Some loose pages flew out of the Book in my haste to get to page 194.  Verse 26 of The Great Shepherd’s intercessory prayer for His flock as recorded in John 17 was circled: “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

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Jesus was the First Witness!  He broadcast the Father’s Name, and wasn’t ashamed!  He spoke to thousands about the Father’s love for mankind! – The very thing He commanded His followers do.  So He never asked us to do something that He never did first.

I encourage you to read the entire chapter to learn how great is Jesus’ love for us.  At a time when He was about to be betrayed by one of His own (Judas) and delivered up for torture and crucifixion – He, who was without sin – prayed for us first, and then gave Himself up willingly to the cross.  He sacrificed Himself for us not because He was guilty of any crime, but out of love for sinners and nothing else!

If I knew that I had but a few hours to live, what would be my priority?  Some are told by doctors to “put your things in order” if diagnosed with a terminal illness; as if “your things” are the priority.  Some people rush to do the things on their “bucket list”- those dreams or goals in life that are unfulfilled.

What did Jesus do?

He prayed.  He gave the Father glory – the number one priority and what we should do first when we pray. Then He prayed acceptance that His life on earth was done.  Then He prayed for us: I am praying for them: I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine. ~John 17:9.  Jesus became first because He always put Himself last.  This principle is taught throughout God’s Word, and if it was the priority for Jesus, it should be embraced as priority by His followers as well.

I don’t know what my priority will be when my time is at hand to experience passing out of this life, even though I know what it should be.  I can tell you that Dad knew beforehand that he would be joining Jesus in heaven soon.  Yet he kept his priorities squared away.  He gave the Father glory in all things, even though his life was cut short and it may not have “seemed fair”.  He accepted that God’s purpose in his life was finished.  He had lived his bucket list, so that was done.  He prayed for others as church brethren prayed for him.  He continued to read God’s Word as long as he was able.  He continued to love others and shared his faith with not only his friends, but complete strangers that he met at the hospital, community – everywhere his journey took him until he passed out of this world and into the arms of his loving Savior. Matt28-19-20copy

Reading Dad’s Bible message is working a new thing in my life.  I am just beginning to appreciate more than ever what a wonderful gift God gave me.  What started out as curiosity over a family keepsake has set me on a journey into a deepening re-connection to my Heavenly Father.  I’m getting a glimpse of God’s love being greater than distance or time, and obedience to His will being the priority.

There is more to come (Lord willing) as I explore more of Dad’s New Testament message in “Turn to pg 296”.  Don’t miss the next part of the message by following importantstuff.live.

I Need a Heart Renovation

Something happened recently that showed me how important it is to open my heart to the Holy Spirit.  It had to do with caring for my elderly mother after a surgery.  I was feeling pretty good about myself to be able to help her out and then one evening I came home from cooking a simple meal for my folks and saw a Facebook posting about appreciating your mom more after having kids of your own. Before I could scroll down, I believe the Holy Spirit put a thought into my mind something like this:

“No, you will never really appreciate your mother until you have the privilege of caring for her when she is frail, hurting, and injured – the way she cared for you most of your life!”

The first week after her surgery I stayed at my parents’ house.  I realized by the third day that Mom was recuperating nicely, but I was feeling stressed somehow.  I asked God to heal Mom completely and then to give me the heart to love being with my folks; in their home; to be respectful and positive; to give encouragement; to serve cheerfully; and most of all, to show them love like I have never shown them in my life.  I asked Him to give me joy, understanding, and peace without being torn between my world and theirs.

God is so faithful and He rewards those who seek Him by giving them the desires of their hearts.  God answered the prayers of healing for Mom right way.  She is recovering rapidly and the joint repair has already healed in three weeks (according to her physical therapist).  He says a few months of therapy with exercises at home should deliver her a good outcome.  Thank you, Jesus!

As for me, within days my whole attitude improved.  My spirit is singing and my relationship with Mom is moving to a higher level of trust and respect.  Each morning I waken with anticipation of what blessings God has in store for us today.  As I drive to their house, bring in the newspaper and start breakfast; Mom already has the coffee made (with one good arm, bless her).  We swing right into the day as they catch me up on how things went overnight.  We have always had a good relationship, but now I believe that God is doing an amazing work in the three of us.  It feels like He is drawing us into His Spiritual realm of abiding love.

So what is this abiding love of God?  I am still learning about it as the Holy Spirit reveals. For now, I believe it is the love that sticks; that binds; that never fails; that doesn’t quit; doesn’t expect; doesn’t fault.  It is the love that knows I need a heart renovation and is giving me one.  Thank you, Lord!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law… If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” ~Galations 5:22,23,25 KJV

Survival Food List

This posting is by request.  It is my simple no-nonsense survival food list.  It is wise to have basic foods stocked up in case of emergency.  I recommend a few “life straws” for filtering drinking water, also.

SURVIVAL LISTGod bless!