Thursday, December 10, 2015

LOOKING FOR THE SILVER LINING

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the
will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

This verse came to mind when a project I had been depending on came to an unexpected end. For over a year it had provided the necessary income to enable me to get out of debt and to pay my bills on time, so when I found it all gone on my return home from a brief outing one day, I felt as though I'd been punched in the gut.  How could I give thanks for that?

Well, the above Scripture doesn't say we have to give thanks for everything we are presented with, but rather that we should look for something in it that we can be thankful about.  I may not be thankful that it's raining on my parade, but I can be thankful that I have an umbrella.

Today I choose to be thankful for the gift of time.  Time to take care of chores that have been put off for way too long, time to fellowship with friends and family without rushing the visit or feeling stressed about taking too long a break, time to experience life outside work.  Today I choose to focus on my many blessings, and trust God to make the way straight.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

THE BIGGEST DECEPTION OF THEM ALL

"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth 
and the life. No one comes to the Father except 
through me." -- (John 14:6)


A few Sundays ago we had a time of cardboard testimonies during our service at church, and I was privileged to be a part of it.

You see, several years earlier, I didn't know I had a testimony to share.  My conversion experience had been less than dramatic, and I thought testimonies were what people like former warlord and gang leader turned Christian evangelist Nicky Cruz had, or what addicts, criminals, or victims of abuse who had hit bottom had when they came to know the Lord and their lives were miraculously transformed--not people like me.

One day, however, during a discussion with some friends, the light turned on, and I was struck by the sudden realization that I did have a testimony, a testimony no less remarkable.  The miracle of my testimony was that I found the right path at all, considering I believed I had already found it and was no longer searching.

My memoir, "Sincerely Wrong: An Improbable Journey," tells the story.  It can be downloaded to your computer as a free PDF file by clicking on the image of the book cover on the sidebar of this blog.  The short version though, is that I grew up with a desperate need to feel significant, and after a long quest for roots and purpose, thought I had found them in New Age and occult doctrines.  My vulnerability led me to believe in a lie that I persuaded others to believe in as well.  I was not consciously deceiving anyone; I was just sincerely wrong.

Don't be deceived, as I was, into thinking that there are many paths to God, or that we get to Heaven by being good.  That is the biggest deception of them all.

Although we were created to have fellowship with the Lord, Adam and Eve's sin caused us to be born into a fallen world.  The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and in Romans 6:23, that "the wages of sin is death." Because of this, a vast gulf separates us from our Heavenly Father, and there is no way we can cross it through our own efforts.  Only one path can lead us to eternal life, and that is Jesus (John 14:6).

The good news is that "God so loved the world [you and me included] that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). God loves you so much that even if you were the only person on this Earth, He would still have sent Jesus to die for your sins so you could be set free.  It is a gift that can only be received by grace, through faith. It cannot be earned by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), and as much as it is not God's will for anyone to perish, He will not impose His will on you or force you to accept it. The choice is yours.

Jesus stands at the door of your heart, knocking and waiting for you to answer (Revelation 3:20), and I implore you to open the door before it is too late.  Accept His invitation to enter your life, forgive your sins, and make you a new creation.  Don't believe the lies!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

TOOLS OF ENCOURAGEMENT

"Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his
face always. Remember the wonders he has
done, his miracles, and the judgments he
pronounced." -- (1 Chronicles 16:11-12)

Many years ago, I heard a sermon on the importance of keeping a record of what God has done in our lives.  The account of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:34-37) was used as an illustration.  David, remembering how God gave him the strength to wrestle a lion and strong-arm a bear that had snatched a lamb from his father's flock, was able to boldly proclaim, The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. (1 Samuel 17:37)

Inspired by this message, I gathered all my bits and pieces of paper with scribbled notes of things the Lord had done, organized them by topic, and copied them into a tabbed notebook, along with some relevant Scripture verses and choruses.  So, for instance, I put all descriptions and dates of times the Lord rescued me from very close calls or intervened to turn a negative situation around for good under the God's Grace tab; financial breakthroughs under Jehovan Jireh, My Provider; miracles of healing under Jehovah Rapha, My Healer; and so on.  I even have a Lessons Learned tab where I've recorded times I missed out on God's very best for me because I let pride or fear keep me from making the right choice. 

On the cover I have pasted the Awesome God chorus, and added the title, Memories to Ponder on Difficult Days.

I must say, no matter how deep into the doldrums I might be, I can't stay there long if I start leafing through this notebook so full of instances of God's faithfulness, and the unexpected ways He has come through for me when I was facing issues that seemed insurmountable at the time.  It is also a great reminder of His unconditional love, and how much better His timing is than mine. 


Shortly after that, I started another tabbed notebook, a little fat one entitled, "It Is Written," each section dealing with an issue I struggle with in my personal life--Anger, Fear, Health, Discouragement, Spiritual Warfare, Who I am in the Lord, and so on--and every time I find a verse that speaks to my heart, I copy it into the appropriate section.  This little reference book has come to my rescue on more than one occasion when I was trying to think of a particular Scripture or where to find it, but my mind drew a blank.

Eventually I turned it into a published book, by the same name, which is available as a paperback, and also in Kindle or Nook versions (see the sidebar of this blog if you are interested in purchasing a copy).  If you are reading this post though, and would like a free PDF you can download to your computer,  leave me a comment with your e-mail address, and I'll be happy to send it to you--no strings attached.   Or, you could even start one of your own.

 I've also taken to marking up my Bible by underlining verses that have special meaning to me, sometimes putting little hearts next to them, and whenever a promise is actually manifested in my life, I put a little TP (Tested and Proven) next to it, along with the date.  This helps keep me from wavering or being influenced by someone else's thoughts when I hear them say these promises are not for today.  I can tell them they've arrived too late with their message, because I've already seen them manifest in my life, and that is evidence that cannot be disputed or denied.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

WAKE UP!


 
"For God so loved the world, that he gave
his only Son, that whoever believes in him
should not perish but have eternal life."
(John 3:16 ESV) 


 A couple of times this week I've had a surreal experience.  The people around me, in the street or in a store, would suddenly appear to be wandering around in a stupor, oblivious to what was about to come.

At first I contemplated writing a short story with this scene as its preface, but those thoughts were soon overshadowed by more foreboding ones as the words from Matthew 24:37-39 popped into mind--As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

I wanted to scream and scream, "Wake, up, wake up!"  I wanted to loudly proclaim the message of the Gospel.  But I didn't.  I remained silent as I continued to observe the passers by.  And yet how differently that would have played out had I seen someone headed towards some imminent danger such as a cavernous hole in the sidewalk.  It would have been unconscionable of me not to warn them about it, even yanking them aside if necessary. So why this hesitation when the threat is spiritual and, therefore, invisible?  For me, it's the fear of rejection, of being judged, but I know that I can't let those fears stop me any longer. There's too much at stake.  

Don't be deceived, as I once was, into thinking that there are many paths to God, or that we get to Heaven by being good. Although we were created to have fellowship with the Lord, Adam and Eve's sin caused us to be born into a fallen world. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and in Romans 6:32, that "the wages of sin is death."  Because of sin, a vast gulf separates us from our Heavenly Father, and there is no way we can cross it through our own efforts. Only one path can lead us to eternal life, and that is Jesus, "The way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]" (John 14:6).

The good news is that "God so loved the world [you and me included] that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). God loves you so much that even if you were the only person on this Earth, He would still have sent Jesus to die for your sins so you could be forgiven and set free.

This gift of salvation that is being handed to you can only be received by grace, through faith. It cannot be earned by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), and as much as it is not God's will for anyone to perish, He will not impose His will on you or force you to accept it. The choice is yours.

Jesus stands at the door of your heart, knocking and waiting for you to answer (Revelation 3:20). I pray that you would open the door before it is too late, and accept His invitation to enter your life, forgive you of your sins, and make you a new creation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

PICK YOURSELF UP

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new
every morning; great is your faithfulness."
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

Sometimes I feel so frustrated and down on myself for slipping back into old thought patterns or behaviors I thought I'd overcome.  Sometimes I just want to give up.  But then the lyrics from a very old Jerome Kern song pop into mind, exhorting me to pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again.

I am so grateful that God is patient and merciful, and that He never gives up on me (or you).  I am grateful for His unconditional love that is not based on my performance.  And most of all I am grateful for Jesus who died a cruel and humiliating death on the cross so we could be forgiven of our sins, and who now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, please know that God so loved the world (you and me included) that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).  This gift can only be received through faith. It cannot be earned by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9).  And as much as it is not God's will for anyone to perish, He will not impose His will on you or force you to accept it. The choice is yours.

Jesus stands at the door of your heart, knocking and waiting for you to answer (Revelation 3:20). I pray that you would open the door before it is too late, and accept His invitation to enter your life, forgive your sins, and make you a new creation.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

WHAT MORE COULD YOU NEED?



From the Scriptures, "...neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

From the chorus of a beloved hymn, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will go strangely dim, In the light of His gory and grace." (Helen Lemmel)

From the pages of my Jesus Calling devotional, "I, the Creator of the universe, am with you and for you. what more could you need? When you feel some lack, it is because you are not connecting with me at a deeper level." (May 21)

From a message given during a summit revival at my church, deep conviction about the need to keep my eyes on the Lord and on my relationship with Him.  That means no finger pointing, no being critical or judgmental, no focus on what others should or should not be doing. It also means not measuring my self worth in terms of the kudos I receive, or the amount of "likes" on Facebook, or how I measure up to others.  There's always going to be someone who seems smarter, more talented, better looking, more popular, and if I start dwelling on those things, it's easy to feel insignificant and unappreciated, and have a down in the dumps kind of day.

How different the experience when I keep my focus where it belongs. When I think of the message of the Cross, how petty and insignificant the negative tapes playing in my head become. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

A NEW FAVORITE VERSE

"If we are living now by the Holy Spirit's power, let
us follow the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of
our lives.  Then we won't need to look for honors
and popularity, which lead to jealousy and hard
feelings." -- (Galatians 5:25-26 TLB)

Though my heart is usually full of gratitude for the many blessings in my life, there are times when something happens that triggers old painful childhood memories of feeling overlooked, left out, insignificant, less than.  That moment when I discover someone else did something that topped what I did; or got picked to do something I'd hoped to get picked for; or managed to achieve the success and recognition I'd longed for.  Before I know it, I've lost my focus and allowed the green eyed monster to steal my joy.

Is it any surprise then that the above verse, which I've read many times before without a second thought, should suddenly become very personal and meaningful.  Ouch!

Its gentle admonition reminds me that we are all Divine originals, created by God for a special purpose no one else can fulfill.  So let them be them, and me be me, and stop making comparisons.  Kudos may be nice, but nothing but Jesus can fill the longing in a soul. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD

"Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, 
but he laughed to himself in disbelief. 
'How could I become a father at the age of
100?' he thought. 'And how can Sarah have 
a baby when she is ninety years old?'"
(Genesis 17:17 NLT)

Many years ago, a friend at work was getting rid of a small, scrawny looking umbrella plant that had sat on her desk without sign of growth for so long it had become the butt of many a joke.  I asked if I could have it, and took it home to a sunny spot on the carpet next to a floor-to-ceiling window in my living room.  

 

It soon started to thrive and grow, and by the time I was ready to move, it was taller than the bookcase.  A friend whose car had a sunroof helped transport it to my new apartment. 

Once there, I put it in a bigger pot which I sat in the corner of my dining area, right under a little still life hanging on the wall.  It fit perfectly, and gave the room a designer look. 

As you can see, though, it eventually grew so tall, I had to tack it to the wall to keep the pot from tipping over as the branches stretched out to greet the morning sun.  One of them covered the painting, and when a neighbor asked for a cutting, I lopped it off for her. 





A few months later a tiny stub appeared, and I wondered if it would grow into another branch.  It hasn't so far.  Though I've followed its progress with curious anticipation, it's only gotten a couple of inches longer in all the years since.

But then suddenly, when I least expected it, something amazing happened.   Something I've never seen before.  A tiny bud breaking through the bark of this old tree--and soon after that, a second one, further along the same branch.


What a great reminder that it's never too late for new beginnings, or for things to be turned around.  What may seem like an impossibility in our natural realm, is never impossible with God. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

YOU ARE A MASTERPIECE!

Years ago, a friend gave me a DaySpring perpetual calendar inspired by the motion picture, Letters to God.  It sits on my desk, and every morning I look forward to reading the message of hope and encouragement for the day ahead.

Today's words are words I've been giving a lot of thought to lately.  I'd like to share them with you.  May they bless you and brighten your day as they have mine.

"FEBRUARY 24
Dear one,
      When I created you, I did not make any mistakes.  I fashioned you just the way you are in order to fulfill my perfect plan.  You are a masterpiece!
                              - God"

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

YOU'RE BOTH WINNERS!

Since only two of you actually entered the giveaway, I declare you both winners.
Please e-mail me (sksteinde at yahoo dot com) your mailing address and choice of book, and I'll get it right out to you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

AN ANNIVERSARY GIVEAWAY

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who trusts in Him!"
(Psalm 34:8)

Today I celebrated the sixth anniversary of this blog by taking a trip down memory lane.  I was trying to recapture the feelings that had motivated me to start it in the first place.  In the process, an ebbing flame was fanned back to life.

So here it is, the post that started it all--WHY THIS BLOG.

Good news is for sharing, not for keeping to one's self, and my heart is full of things I would like to share about God's goodness, how He has worked in my life, and most of all, His great love for you and me.

At first I wanted to call this blog Streams of Living Water, and even had a great graphic picked out. I wanted to jump right in and share some things I've been learning that have brought the Scriptures alive in a way I'd never experienced before, but it seems the Lord had different plans, and if I've learned anything on this journey through life, it's been that even when His way is not my way, it always turns out to be the best way.

The streams of living water may be where the action takes place, but before we can jump in, we need to be transformed, and that all starts at the foot of the cross when you lay your burdens down.

At the foot of the cross there is mercy and grace. There is forgiveness, healing, and deliverance. This is the place where the slate gets wiped clean and you can have a fresh start. All you have to do is believe it, and receive it.

Thank you so much for stopping by. May you be richly blessed, encouraged, and filled with hope as you stay and visit for a while.

And now for the giveaway:  You have a choice of either of the two books on my sidebar--Sincerely Wrong: An Improbable Journey, or It Is Written.

Sincerely Wrong is a memoire of the search for roots, purpose, and significance that led me to embrace New Age and occult doctrines, and of the improbable journey that led me from the occult to Christianity at a time when I was convinced I had all the answers and was no longer seeking.

It Is Written, is an invaluable resource that can help point you to passages you don't know where to find when you need them the most.  Crucial Scriptures are topically organized according to everyday issues, so as to provide immediate guidance and support in the midst of whatever situation you may be facing.

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment and an e-mail so I can contact you if you are the winner.  The drawing will end at Noon (EST) on Wednesday, February 18th, and the winner will be selected by Random Integer.

WHEN YOUR HAIR IS WHITE WITH AGE...

"...I have created you and cared for you since you
were born.  I will be your God through all your
lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with 
age.  I made you and I will care for you.  I will 
carry you along and be your Savior."
(Isaiah 46:3b-4, TLB)

Ever since I found this verse it has been a great comfort to me.  It reminds me that the God who created me loves me just the way I am (Romans 8:38-39).  He does not get impatient or angry with me when my mind can't process things as quickly as it once did, and He never misconstrues the things I say, because He knows the thoughts and intents of my heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  However the world may look upon me at this stage of my life, I am still the apple of His eye, and never too old to crawl into His lap for comfort (Matthew 11:28). When I start indulging in "what ifs" and become fearful of facing the future alone, He reminds me that He is always there with me, caring for me and carrying me along (Psalm 139:3-6).  It makes me want to fall on my knees and thank Him for all that He is, and all that He has done.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

THE GOD WHO CARES

"Your value does not decrease based on
someone's inability to see your worth."
(Unknown)

The above quote was taken from a friend's Facebook wall.  I saw it during a dark moment of questioning my self worth.  I know that God loves me, and that I am special in His sight, a Divine original created for a special purpose that no one else can fulfill, and yet I sill sometimes allow my focus to wander into that pit.

How grateful I am that my God is a God of mercy and grace.  Instead of getting angry or impatient with me for not following His instructions, He is the lifter of my head.  Whether it's an e-mail from an old friend telling me how much she enjoys my photos, what a blessing my book has been, how much she treasures our friendship; or a work-related conference call that turns out, instead, to be a surprise announcement that I've received a special award; the timing is always perfect, and a gentle reminder to look up instead of around. Things aren't always the way they seem.