You’ve never seen stars like this


by: carole l. haines

“…among whom you appear as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2: 15b NASB)

We were all meant to be stars, in our little spheres of influences, our own little universes, if you will. Brilliant Lights shining in a dark place.  My husband, youngest son, and I, just spent the most wonderful weekend away in the mountains.  Away from the glare of city lights, it’s amazing how many stars you can see.  The darker the sky, the brighter the stars shine, and more and more are seen. It reminded me of how important it is to be transformed by God, through Jesus, into His light, His glory in the world.  Each of has a unique place, or sphere of influence.  People all around us are looking for hope, seeking purpose, wondering why they are here. And whether they know it or not, they are looking for God. Because God is the Author of Hope, the One who gives life its purpose.  God is the only one who can tell us why we are here.  And just as each person is unique, so each purpose is unique.  I was recently encouraged by God through a very familiar verse:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph. 2:10 NASB)
I’ve had a lot of dashed dreams in my life, especially in the last 10-15 years.  I was starting to lose hope, and think that perhaps I had missed what God had called me to do. Somehow, I thought I must not be hearing Him right, or I just keep missing the “God’s Will” boat. But with this one verse, God reinvigorated me with the fact that I am His workmanship, and there are specific good works that God prepared beforehand, that I should walk in them.  So I prayed a simple prayer,
“Lord, show me the works that You’ve prepared for me to do. Help me to walk in them” Nothing more than God’s will, and nothing less. We are also encouraged by Jesus, in John 15, to abide in Him, remain in Him, and we will bear much fruit. I don’t know why things went so wrong in the recent past, but God knows; and He promises to work it all for good, as I love Him, and trust His purpose for my life.  I was born to be a star, a light in a dark place; and so were each of you.

40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. (1 Cor. 15: 40-41 NASB)

We are each unique and strategically placed by God to shine as we are, where we are, being who we are.  We each have “good works” to do that God prepared for us, when He wove us together in our Mother’s womb.  No life is ever without purpose, when yielded to the God who made us. So Shine one, Beautiful stars, Shine on.

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Into the Mist

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by: carole l. haines

There are so many times in our lives where we can’t see what God is doing. I was reminded of that truth this morning as I drove through the Autumn woods.  The chill of the October air had fallen upon our little area so quickly over night, that great clouds of mist arose from the still warm waters of the reservoirs, creeks, and rivers that surround where I live.  I stopped to take a few pictures at one reservoir, and as I stared out into the rising mist, I was reminded of a particularly difficult time in my life, when I was more confused than I ever had been, before or since, about what God was allowing into my life.  The pain of it all, and the tears I cried, mingled with the sudden cool temps of that trial, created a great cloud of spiritual mist arising from within me. I sat helpless to do anything except trust and rest in God.  “For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.
 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a level path…
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”
  (excerpts from Psalm 27 NASB)

We tend to think of enemies as people, but our true enemy is a spiritual one, Satan. God’s word tells us that our enemy prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8 NASB). And are we not most vulnerable in those times of mist, those times of confusion, those times of doubt? But Satan is a toothless lion, just making a lot of noise that we don’t need to listen to. For God promises us, “that He causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)

Love Him, dear believer, and trust His purpose in whatever you are going through, whoever your current enemy is.  Be it cancer, a boss, a relative, a circumstance, a sin you can’t seem to overcome.  God is right there in the midst of that foggy time in your life and soon, as you trust and lean more deeply into Him, His Son Jesus shall rise up, and the mist shall melt away and all shall be revealed.  This can happen in this life, but often it is not until eternity, that the mists completely clear.  Trust Him, rest in Him.  Sink deep into the arms of the God who loved you so much, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever, You-soever, believes in Him, shall not die but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NASB)

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Faith in this man’s eyes

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by: carole l. haines

At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he leaped up and began to walk.  (Acts 14:8-10 NASB)

Faith is a somewhat of an abstract concept.  Abstract mean, “existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.” Faith is not something you can touch, taste, see, or smell, right?  All we can see is what is the result of faith is.  The above verse reveals to us that Paul saw that this man had faith to be healed.  He saw faith in this in the man’s eyes, or on his face. O, I want that.  I want people to look into my eyes and see faith in Jesus, trust in His Holy Spirit, Joy in God the Father.  Our Pastor has been teaching on the Holy Spirit for about seven weeks, and yesterday he referred to the Holy Spirit as, “the means to that continuing conversation with God, that He has been having with believers since the Old Testament.”  I love that picture.  Faith in a God who wants to relate to us, in word and deed. Faith in a God who desires to reveal Himself to us.  He tells us in His Word: 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29: 12-13 NASB) God wants to be found by us, God wants us to know Him.  Oh, how the love of God for us, is far beyond our ability to comprehend and understand.  Not one of us loves like that, so we have a hard time wrapping our minds around it.  One of the most quotable verses in all of Scripture comes just before this declaration. Let’s look at the whole context of it. 10 “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ (Jeremiah 29: 10-14 NASB) God is so marvelous to place hope right in front of us, in the midst of correction, heartache, physical frailty, mental or emotional weakness, loss, or calamity.  These beloved verses are given to Israel, at one of its lowest points in History. God is the perfect Father. It’s like He lifts the head of His Beloved Nation Israel, as they are being corrected by Him for their rebellion.  He lifts their head and says to them, “Look at me, Look at me. Gaze into my eyes and see my love for you in this correction.  You tested Me, you rebelled against Me; and as Your Loving Father, I must bring correction.”  But that is not His final will for them, and He expresses that in verse 11, “I know the plans I have for you…”  God is speaking that to your heart today, in the midst of your trial, your correction, your calamity.  He is saying to you. “This is not the end, it’s a beginning of something even more beautiful than you can imagine.  Trust this God, who caused the eyes of Paul to fall on that one lame man, in the midst of that sea of people, and recognize his faith to be healed.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 11:1-2NASB).  Fix your gaze on Him, and rest in His promise to you of something far better, than what is happening right now.

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Swaddled in His Grace


by: carole l. haines

20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20 NASB)

What a peculiar statement.  What kind of righteousness did the Pharisees have, and how do we surpass it? I believe this question is best answered by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:9:  “…not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” The Pharisees based their righteousness on Law, not on Christ who fulfilled the Law of God. Here is where True Christianity stands apart from all other religions of the World. We, as believers in Christ, confess our unrighteousness, or our sins; and Jesus then robes us in His own Righteousness.  It is as if we are standing naked in the street, and someone comes up and covers our nakedness, our shame, our weakness.  It is nothing that we can cause to happen for ourselves.  We truly are naked before God, He knows our every thought, our every weakness, every secret sin.  But God declares about Himself, that He is, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6 NASB) The Pharisees were continually exalting themselves and their own righteousness, counting on their ability to keep The Law, as their ticket into Heaven.  But right under their noses, was the answer to all of mankind’s failure; The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, Son of God.  Yet, in their pride and arrogance, they did not see Him, or recognize Him for who He really is.
Even so, as believers in Jesus, self-righteousness will blind us to seeing Jesus in our lives.  Being full of ourselves keeps us from being full of Jesus.  He never leaves us or forsakes us, but our self-reliance, self-centeredness, and self-righteousness, blind us to His Amazing Work in each of our lives, and in the lives of others. The Law can take many forms in our lives. It can be a set of standards we hold up as the one we have to meet, and then we impose it onto others.  It can be the comparison game of wishing we were as “Spiritual” as other people.  Self- Righteousness actually separates us from the very One who can make us truly Righteous and Pure, Jesus.  The only way our righteousness can surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees, is to receive from God, the righteousness of Christ, through faith in Him.
Even as believers, we can fall back into relying on our own righteousness.  Here is what Paul says about this: You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:1-5) By faith in Christ alone, as it says above in Philippians, “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but the righteousness that comes from God, based on faith alone.” It is Christ alone who saves us, robes us in His righteousness, and keeps us there.  Crawl up into the Secure Place of Christ alone. Let Him wrap you in His own Righteousness. Stay there, swaddled in His Grace. You will find Him faithful, trustworthy, and secure.

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The whipping post


by: carole l. haines

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3 NASB

Have you ever been under the critical eye of other people?  You can just tell that they are watching every little thing you do, assessing whether you are living up to their standards, and forming opinions about you based on their own human assessments. I have been on both ends of this whipping post, it’s a very uncomfortable and unnerving place to be. Have you ever seen a Whipping Post? They were generally located in the center of town and people were tied to them, then whipped. Similarly used were the stocks.  Look at the picture above and imagine yourself tied to that post, with others whipping your naked back. What a terrible and humiliating situation.  But being under the judgmental eye of others can feel just like that. Do we need to subject ourselves to such judgment? Do we need to receive it, as believers? I don’t think so, not based on God’s Word. God doesn’t intend for us to have to live under the opinions or assessments of other people.  It is good to be discerning, but not judgmental.  There is a huge difference.  In the above passage, Jesus tells us that those of us who believe in Him are not judged.  When I looked up the original Greek meaning of that word, it was broad, yet here is one of the meanings:

  1. to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
  2. of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others.

God’s Word says this: Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)

So many Scriptures teach us that we stand before God alone, not each other.  So many wrong things have been carried out in the name of “Fear of Man,”  in the name of people pleasing. God desires for us to be free from the fear of man. So what exactly is it?  It is placing the opinions of others above God’s view on any matter of life.  God’s Word speaks volumes on it.  Many warnings are given about the snare of yielding to human opinion, judgment, or assessment.  This has been one of the hardest tasks of my Christian Walk; learning to walk freely in Christ, overcoming the judgments of others, in order to accomplish what God has sent me forth to do.
Dear Believers, we will only ever stand before God alone, in eternity, to give an account for our lives. So, in the here and now, let’s choose to stand alone before Him. Let’s know His Word, His view of us and others.  Don’t let others intimidate you with their judgments.  Don’t tie yourself to that whipping post. Also, examine yourselves to be sure you are free from judging anyone else. That is like casting stones, and Jesus handling of that issue was to ask that whoever of us is without sin, only those could cast the first stone.  None of us is without sin, so drop those stones, and unhitch yourself, and others, from that judgmental whipping post.
Christ alone, Christ alone;
we are never forsaken, never alone.
Live your lives for Christ alone.

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You shouldn’t feel that way


by: carole l. haines

“You shouldn’t feel like that!” “Don’t be sorry!” People who say these things to us are well intentioned, but they call us to deny our honest feelings.  Being sorry about something is good, as long as we handle it the right way.  You know how you can see a photo, and the things in the foreground appear sharp & clear, but the background is blurry. Our feelings can alter our vision in this way, too.  We feel what we feel, but our feelings must not be what rule us.  That would be a nightmarish scenario of riding a roller coaster that never stops to let us off.  Our feelings are good indicators of how we may be doing, but they can also be highly deceptive.  A sugar low, or high, can dramatically alter how we feel, and yet our circumstances have not changed in the slightest.  How do we handle such fluctuations?  We cry out to God for truth in the deepest parts of ourselves.  Here is what His Word says:

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:26 &27 NASB)

This passage is just stacked with practical truth:

1)    Don’t deny the reality that you feel something: Be angry, or frustrated, or hurt or whatever. Don’t deny that inner reality.

2)   Yet do not sin: Handle your feelings correctly. Be honest with yourself, take it to the Lord in prayer, and gently work through that feeling.  Ask God to reveal why you feel this way in this situation.  What triggered this emotional response?  Trust me, He will reveal it to you, and help you handle the feeling without sinning.

3)    Do not let the sun go down on your anger: Don’t delay in dealing with your inner reactions, try to handle that with God ASAP.  When we don’t handle our feelings, they tend to go down deeper inside us, and then pop out in inappropriate, awkward ways. Don’t outwardly react, if possible, until you have inwardly processed.  Be honest with yourself about what is going on. “I think I’m jealous, envious, hurt, etc.  We can’t repent of sin that we deny.

4)    Don’t give the devil an opportunity: This is key for us to understand.  The refusal of us to deal honestly with our feelings and reactions to things; will give the devil an opportunity to confuse us, short-circuit us, and even use us for his own purposes. Think about what Jesus called him. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 NASB)

Inner honesty is so key to truly growing into the image of Christ. God is polishing us, filing us down, remolding the damaged parts, healing our inner wounds. God’s Word tells us: 14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled. (Hebrews 12:14-15 NASB)

So, in closing, acknowledge your feelings, but don’t always trust them to tell you the truth.  We are too easily deceived.  Bring these feelings to God and ask Him to help you develop truth in your innermost being.  Here is a great prayer of David about this.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139: 23-24 NASB)

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Live in harmony in the Lord


by: carole l. haines

Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4 NASB)

We don’t necessarily like everyone in the Body of Christ, do we?  Just as personalities clash outside of God’s Family, they clash inside as well.  So what do we do when this happens?  How do we respond when we can tell someone is giving us the cold shoulder, or when we bristle inside at the presence of another believer who just rubs us the wrong we?  We choose to see them as God sees them, as God sees us.  We help one another to grow and transform into Christ’s image. We love one another, without necessarily “liking” everyone.  How important is this response, this choice to love who we don’t like?  According to 1 John 4, it is absolutely crucial to the world being able to see Jesus, and to our own spiritual growth and transformation. Listen to what John says:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

Our very spiritual maturity depends on obeying Jesus call to love one another.  Liking has nothing to do with it.  But I have found that when I pray for someone I don’t necessarily like, God opens my spiritual eyes to see this person as He does, and that changes my perspective.  God’s perspective is always truth, ours may only be opinion, preference, or a judgmental spirit. So, the next time someone in the body of Christ rubs you the wrong way, do not respond as the world does, in retaliation, spite, or judgment; choose to apply Christ’s love. Further still, pray for the person, for yourself, and the situation.  If it is still too difficult, confide in a trusted leader your need for help in loving this person; as Paul mentions above to the Recipient of Philippians. No gossip allowed, just sharing your need for help, not your opinion of the person.  No one has seen God at any time, if we love one another, despite our differences; we shine a light on the perfect love of God, and point others to Jesus.

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