Monday, December 30, 2013

2014, Here We Come!

Who needs a New Year’s resolution when God’s mercies are new every morning? We have the opportunity every day to be better than we were the day before. We can set goals, but these drastic lifestyle changes that we propose tend to fall apart after a few months. Without our minds being renewed, we are setting ourselves up for failure from the start. For 2014, why not be a little more realistic?

For example, there is no way I’m going to go from not exercising at all to spending 4 hours a week at the gym. It just isn’t going to happen consistently because my mind hasn’t been trained to do that. However, if I can spend a couple days a week walking for 20 minutes, maybe I’ll be ready for the gym eventually. Maybe it’s just me, but if I miss a huge goal, I am more likely to be totally discouraged from trying again. The smaller ones are easier to evaluate, adjust, and attack.

Several small changes can lead to a dramatically better life. As you see the progress you are making with the smaller goals, your mind will expand to larger goals with greater expectations of achievement and completion. Pray and ask God to show you where to start and how far to go. The beauty of the whole thing is that He gives us another opportunity every time we wake up. We should have a better prayer life, make healthier life choices, and have better relationships with family and friends. These are not bad things. We should also help ourselves to reach our goals by implementing the changes in phases throughout the year instead of all at once.

The only thing that you absolutely must do right now is surrender your life to Christ. You may not have another opportunity to accept eternal life. You also need to align yourself with a community of believers that will help you to be better in Christ Jesus. Responsibility and accountability are not your enemies – just the opposite. Above all, remember that God’s love for you has nothing to do with you meeting your goals. He loves you anyway and He always will.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Seek Him Still

I always love hearing or reading, “Wise men still seek Him.”  It tends to get me to focus on what this season is truly about. For hundreds of years, the Hebrew people had been waiting for the promised Messiah. Finally, He was born!  The word started to spread, a bright star rose to lead the way, and people set out on their journey to go and worship Him.  This was fulfillment of prophecy, this was God in the flesh come to redeem His people, and this was THE Good News!
 
Scroll forward about 33 years, and these people are shouting, “Crucify Him!”  You really cannot consider the birth of Christ without understanding the purpose for that birth.  The birth of the Messiah wasn’t the end of the prophecy.  In order to save His people from their sins, He had to die.  He knew when He took on the form of man, He would have to suffer and die.  There was no other way for our sins to be forgiven then, now, and forever.  God’s holiness demanded a sacrifice, and His son came to this earth to be that sacrifice.
 
The redemptive quality of His work on the cross continues today.  We still have the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins.  We still have the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  Not only was He born, did He live as our example, and was He crucified in our stead, HE LIVES!  Christmas means nothing without Easter; the birth means nothing without the subsequent death and resurrection.  Because He lives, those who are wise can still seek Him.
 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Say So

Psalm 107:1-2 (NASB)
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary


It seems kind of pointless to ask people if God has ever done anything for them, doesn’t it? We do it all the time, especially in church. Simply being alive, awake, and active answers that question. I believe what we are intending to do, however, is to get people to think about the goodness of the Lord at that moment. Just consider all the things that God has done for us over the course of our few days.

Not only can we praise Him for those things we know that He has done, we can likewise rejoice over the things that we knew nothing about. The enemy is slinking around looking for ways to destroy us, BUT GOD! Every time you think about how ‘lucky’ you were that some bad circumstance missed you, thank God for His loving kindness. We attribute so much to coincidence, but God knows how many hairs are on our heads, so why not believe that He has orchestrated events to work out in our favor?

I praise Him even harder when the adversary He redeems me from is ME. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves with our disobedience, but He is always faithful. We need to ascribe to God the glory due His name. If He wasn’t the almighty, the omniscient, the omnipotent, the omnipresent, and the eternal God, we would be lost. As the redeemed of the Lord, we need to SAY SO!  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Jesus, The Light of The World

John 8:12 (KJV) Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Christmas is a little over two weeks away, and almost everywhere you look, you see the signs of the season: evergreen trees, decorations, nativity scenes, garland, ornaments, wreaths, and lights.  (In the retail stores, you started seeing those signs around Halloween.)  People are hustling and bustling around, trying to find perfect gifts for family and friends, making sure the little ones’ faces light up bright as the sun on Christmas morning.
This is the time of year that we celebrate the coming of the Messiah, Immanuel, Jesus.  This is when we remember the anticipation of the coming Christ, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies concerning Himself.  This is when we take time to thank God for His amazing gift of grace through His only son, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Redeemer who came to take away the sins of the world.
He came, so that we would no longer be slaves to darkness. He is the only reason for the season.  No matter how commercial December 25th becomes, no matter how desensitized some of us become to the merriment and good cheer, Jesus Christ intentionally took on the form of man to become the ultimate and perfect sacrifice for us – ALL of us.  That’s enough, even more than enough, to rejoice this Christmas season.  Jesus Christ, the light of the world, has saved us from our sins.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Unchanging God

Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV) It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
 
I place my hope in God because He is always faithful. He does not change. He will forever be my rock solid anchor in this world filled with change and inconsistency. Old hymn lyrics come to mind: ‘Time is filled with swift transitions; naught of earth unmoved can stand; build your hopes on things eternal; hold to God’s unchanging hand.”  He is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore.
 
If we build on the one true God as our foundation, we will not be shaken as worldly empires crumble. As we face so much uncertainty in our lives and in our world, we can be sure that God is ever-present and unchanging. We have a Savior who loves us, cares for us, and protects us through whatever the years may bring. From our birth to our earthly demise, we (who are His) are in God’s hands, safe and secure.
 
There are things we will never understand, but we can rest in His mercies that keep us from being consumed DAILY. We can thank God for His unfailing compassions. As long as we are breathing, we have an opportunity to worship God with our lives for all of His goodness toward us. He keeps doing great things, merciful things, gracious things to draw us closer to Him, to comfort our hearts, and to bless our souls. His faithfulness will allow Him to do no less.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Be That One

Luke 17:11-19 (NLT)  As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.  As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
 
At this time of year, a lot of people are caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparing big meals, buying wonderful gifts for loved ones, and generally being caught up in our many blessings. We need to take some time to stop and just tell the Lord, “thank you.” We spend so much of our energy on our blessings that we have little left over for the Blessor. We utter a quick prayer of thanksgiving around the dinner table, as we plan our black Friday shopping excursions.
 
As we see from our text today, a little bit of gratitude goes a long way. Ten lepers were healed, but only one stopped to see what the Lord had done and turned back. He didn’t lose anything by taking a few moments to thank the Healer and praise God. Sometimes we have to stop and see what the Lord has already done, instead of scrambling ahead to the next blessing. The nine were doing exactly as they were told, which was to go show themselves to the priests. But that one was overcome with gratefulness as he witnessed his healing. He turned back to express his thankfulness to the Lord.
 
If we would take the time to thank God for what we have and for what He has already done, we will find ourselves happier and much more content. Thanksgiving will mean so much more to us, if we aren’t constantly planning what’s coming next. Enjoy the blessings of the Lord, fall at His feet, and thank Him for a while. When we focus on everything God has done for us, we have no room to complain about what we don’t have.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Who God Is

Revelation 1:8 (NASB) “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
 
Sometimes I think we need a reminder of who God is. He loves us, and He wants His best for us. He cares about every detail of our lives, and He allows us to come to Him through Christ Jesus.  HOWEVER, we must never forget that He is also the God that touches the hills, and they smoke (Ps. 104:32). We should be careful that we don’t try and shrink the Sovereign God to fit in our little world.
 
The God who some call ‘the man upstairs’ is the same God who sent judgment by death for strange fire brought before Him in the Old Testament. He is greater than we can even fathom with our finite minds. He is so much more than our vocabulary will ever allow us to speak, and yet, we treat Him as our colleague, rather than OUR FATHER. He wants a personal relationship with us, but we can’t confuse that with a human relationship. He is an awesome wonder, not our buddy.
 
He always was, is, and will be the Almighty. That He would take the time to be mindful of us at all is a daily miracle. He speaks, and things become. With the same voice He speaks, and things cease to be. He wants our worship, not our fist bumps and pep rallies. It’s time we acknowledge God in His proper place in our universe: the Creator of all. He gives wondrous grace to reconcile us to Himself. That grace is not to be confused with human merit. Let’s stop playing with Him, and really get to know Him. He tells us who He is through His Word. Get in it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trust God's Timing

God had established my ending well before my beginning. God knew everything that would occur in my life and when well before the foundation of the earth. There are times when we want something to happen right away, and times when we want something NOT to happen at all. The truth, as the writer pens in Ecclesiastes, is that there are times and seasons for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NASB)  He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

God makes things appropriate for the times He chooses. We, as human beings, don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to face loss. We want ourselves and our families to be happy and healthy. We don’t always understand why God does the things He does, but we must trust in the truth that He established the ending of things before they ever began. He knew before the foundation of the earth where you would be this very second, and what would be going on in your life. Everything is not comfortable, but it is appropriate according to God’s plan.

We, who are His, can be confident that God knows the plans He has for us, and they are for our good (Jer. 29:11). Even those unfortunate circumstances will work in the grand scheme of God’s plan for our good (Rom. 8:28). Nothing that has happened to you, or will happen to you is a shock to God. He doesn’t have to scramble to come up with a back-up plan for anything EVER.  This is of great comfort to me, as a believer in the one true God – the creator of heaven and earth. He made it all, and He controls it all.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Grateful Heart is a Happy Heart

Welcome to November, the month that contains Thanksgiving Day. I have noticed on social media sites that people are trying to post an “I’m grateful for” message every day during the month. It’s a wonderful reminder of how blessed we are. Seeing so many people being very intentional about giving GOD thanks for His goodness and mercy toward us is refreshing. This is in addition to giving thanks every morning, as I’m sure a lot of these people do already.
 
Having a grateful heart makes the rough times easier to bear. When I just start thanking God for what I have, it puts less emphasis on what I don’t have. When I thank God for who He is, I can appreciate His grace and his mercy all the more. If we all spent more time thanking God on a regular basis, instead of asking for things, I believe we (as Christian people) will be more content with whatever situation we happen to find ourselves in.
 
There is nothing wrong with asking God for what we need and desire; He told us in His Word to come to Him and ask. The point I am making is that more time should be spent giving thanks and praise to God. It has been my experience that if I spend more time asking for things, the more I focus on what I don’t have. When I do that, I am unable to be content with the many blessings that I already have. I am much happier focusing on the goodness of the LORD, counting all my blessings, and marveling at the mercy of our loving, heavenly Father.
 
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Conquering Fear

Matthew 10:31(NLT) So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

I have taken this scripture out of its context, so let me explain. A couple of sparrows don’t cost but a penny, and not one of them can fall without God knowing and caring about it. As the old hymn goes, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me”. He loves me more than I could even attempt to love myself.

We get scared (well, I do anyway). Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that we have nothing to fear in Christ Jesus. As our faith grows, our fears seem to change. Conquering one fear usually just brings another to light. After you’re no longer worried about your financial situation, a health challenge arises. Is not the same God still sovereign over all? I feel that I take one step forward in faith, only to be knocked back two.

All the while, I know in my head that I shouldn’t be afraid. No matter what comes, what happens, or what falls apart, I am loved by a merciful God. He is using all my circumstances to develop me. He is working all things – good, bad and otherwise – for my good. I will come out of whatever I’m facing stronger, wiser, and better, but I must go through with the faith to know God is able. So, I will not be afraid because I am more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. And I will keep telling myself that I am not afraid until one day, I really won’t be afraid.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Submit to God

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
God is neither a magician nor a genie. God is not bound to grant our wishes for wealth, fame, and fortune. God does not perform optical illusions for our entertainment. You’re thinking right now that this sounds absolutely ludicrous! But how do we treat God every day? We pull Him out after everything else has failed, like He is obligated to respond.
We ask, seek, and knock when we think we will get what we want. God is only obligated to His Word. We need to take His yoke upon ourselves and learn of Him. Then we will be able to pray in His will and for His will. He wants to give us good things, but He wants us to know Him all the more. We need to acknowledge Him in everything we do, say, and think. We need to treat God like GOD. He is greater than our highest understanding; He is better than our greatest imagination.
I won’t be able to trust in the LORD with all my heart until I know Him like that. How will I know Him unless I seek to know Him? My understanding is finite, so I don’t know all the possible outcomes of my decisions. I don’t know what hardships I might create for myself by not acquiescing to the will of God. The chosen scripture reference is about submission to God. It is only when we submit fully to Him that we will see the way to go. It isn’t magic; it isn’t rocket science. It’s the way God works.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Not For a Moment

I don’t know where I first heard the song, when I last heard it, or what I was doing when I heard it.  All I know is that those lyrics flooded my brain and soothed my soul at the absolute perfect moment.  I began to feel some anxiety about a certain situation, and BAM! “Not for a moment will You forsake me” invaded my thoughts. Who can bring something to your remembrance like that except the Holy Spirit? God promised never to leave me nor forsake me. That’s BIBLE. The song lyrics were buried in my subconscious somewhere and triggered by that nudge of the Holy Ghost.
 
I don’t even own that CD by Meredith Andrews and Vertical Worship. I didn’t even know all the words when I YouTube’d it to listen yesterday morning. You can’t convince me that God isn’t real. He knows just what to do and when. He knew exactly what I needed to hear at that very moment. Why wouldn’t I trust Him with my entire life? It’s all the little things in my life that cause me to marvel at my God. The care He puts into the little details, for my benefit, amazes me. I am foolish to worry about anything that I’ve entrusted to Him.
Let me share just the chorus of this song with you:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me 
 

I can’t think of a more soothing truth. God is always there. Different writers, poets and artists have said/sung it different ways over the years, but this one really touches my heart for this season in my life.
Hebrews 13:5b “…For God has said, “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.” (Living Bible)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Just a Vapor

James 4:14 (NASB) Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
 
Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, yet we struggle with priorities. I’m not even going to pretend that I have all the answers to this dilemma. We spend so much time and energy on things that absolutely will not matter in eternity that we neglect the matters of the eternal soul. We run around in our little hamster balls, this way and that, busily making plans and back-up plans.  The truth of the matter is that we have no idea if we will even be breathing in the next moment.
 
Perspective is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t always come easy.  It seems to usually take a tragedy, a terminal illness, or some bitter situation to get us to focus on things above.  Jesus spoke about not setting our minds on temporary things.  Life is fleeting, and we don’t have the time to waste on things that will not last.  Think about how much time and energy you spend on your job.  If something were to happen to you, how much time and energy do you suppose they would spend on you?
 
This applies to lots of things, not just work.  Why do some people scrape and claw for every dime they can get into a retirement plan, only to have the market tank just before they retire?  God’s grace is sufficient.  Yes, we need to plan for the future, but we must always keep in mind that our real future is eternal.  What can we deposit into that account?  What can I do here on earth today that will have a lasting impact in the Kingdom of God?  It’s time to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Stop stressing over the temporary!  I know it's easier said than done, but we need to move in that direction every day. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Just Loved

This past weekend I attended a Women of Faith conference for the very first time. The theme was Believe God Can Do Anything. The speakers were excellent, the worship was phenomenal, and the camaraderie of 7000+ women together in one place at one time was absolutely amazing. Sometimes we just need to get away from what we are most familiar with and most comfortable in, and try something new. I would have missed a tremendous blessing had I not decided to take a chance on something I’d never experienced with people I didn’t know.

For Bible-believing, born-again Jesus followers, we shouldn’t have a problem coming together in worship. Our methods may be different, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. You may not want to belong to the same church that I do, but we should be able to reach across these denominational, racial, cultural, and socio-economic lines to embrace one another in the presence of the One True God. In some “church circles”, we have dug the ditches so deep around us that no one feels welcome to come inside, and no one is free to venture outside.

Jesus Christ exists outside of our various circles. He isn’t confined to any of the boundaries that we’ve established between ourselves. All who call on the name of the LORD will be saved (Romans 10:13). The shackles that we have placed on people in the name of religion have got to come off. Jesus set all these people free, and we come right behind Him and bind them back up with traditions and rules. We have run so many people away from the church because we aren’t BEING the church.

Week in and week out we come to these buildings to learn (hopefully) more of God’s Word, more of the Truth. When will we actually apply that knowledge to our operations? When will Jesus Christ be enough? He is the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will make you free (John 8:32). There is no magic formula to get life right. There is no checklist to perfection. Once we recognize that grace is given, not earned, we will have better perspective of who we are in Jesus Christ – LOVED.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jesus Paid It All

Jesus paid it all;
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain;
He washed it white as snow.

There is nothing I can do to earn salvation.  There is no To-Do list that I can check off to obtain grace.  Jesus Christ did everything thousands of years ago that needed to be done for my redemption.  My responsibility is to accept that gift and enter into a grateful relationship with my Creator through my Savior.  BUT... it doesn't stop there.
 
All to Him I owe.  I have an obligation to do more than just accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.  I owe Him everything I have: life, health, hope, joy, peace, contentment.  Without Him, I have no being.  Without Him, I am nothing.  I owe it to Him to take His yoke upon me and learn of Him.  The least I can do is study His life - His walk, His talk, His obedience to God the Father, His unwavering faith that God's Will would be done.
 
He will never need us to justify His sacrifice, but the least we can do is acknowledge what He's done for us and do our very best to please Him.  Although salvation is free, there is a cost.  If we want to reign with Him, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.  We have to be willing to give up everything for the cause of Christ.  He already paid it all, and we can't repay Him, but shouldn't we at least live for Him?

Monday, September 16, 2013

At the End of Yourself

Psalm 61:1-2 (KJV) Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
 
Sometimes you just get tired – tired of getting up in the morning, tired of going to work, tired of the general hustle and bustle of life.  What do you do?  Well, when you are at the end of you is when you can find God’s strength.  It’s in those times we are weak, worn out, and used up that we really see and feel God move.
 
When there is absolutely no doubt in our minds whatsoever that only God can do it, He shows us great and mighty things.  Once we are broken, He can use the pieces to form a better picture than we ever could on our own.  It is in our desperate seeking of His glory, power, strength, and peace, that we find our proper place in His will.  There is no safer place than that.
 
Life can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be consuming.  Cry out for the rock that is higher than yourself.  Recognize that you have limits, but you serve a limitless God.  Exercise that measure of faith that God has given you to fulfill your God-given purpose.  Even when your heart is overwhelmed, your life can still be abundant in Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Everything God Does is Perfect

Deuteronomy 32:4 (NASB)

The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
His work is perfect. Just think about that for a moment. Everything God does is perfect.  Some things that we face in this life are not a result of decisions we’ve made, and it’s when those random happenings befall us that we begin to question God.  Everything God does is perfect.  Keep meditating on that.
He is a God of faithfulness and without injustice.  He is righteous and upright.  He is not punishing you.  He is growing your faith in Him.  He is making you trust only Him and rely only on Him.  The company downsizes, and you end up on the unemployment line.  Everything God does is perfect.  The doctor gives you devastating news about your health.  Everything God does is perfect.  A tragic accident takes the life of your loved one.  Everything God does is perfect.
It may not always be easy, but everything God does is perfect.  You may not ever know why something happened specifically, but know that God is working all things for your good.  There is an old hymn that states that we will understand it better by and by.  By and by may not be on this side of glory, but you need to recognize that everything God does is perfect. Are you still meditating on that sentence?  Everything God does is perfect.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

No Surprises

Jeremiah 1:5 (NASB) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
 
God is more than amazing.  He knew before the day of your birth everything that would transpire in your life.  He knew when, where, what, how, and who would be involved in every circumstance and situation you would ever face.  Omniscient is an understatement to His infinite knowledge.  We just don’t have sufficient verbiage to describe God’s splendor and majesty.
 
But we can take comfort in knowing that before even our first breath, He had a purpose for us to fulfill upon this earth.  Nothing happens in our lives that can alter the purpose that He established for us before the beginning of time.  When we understand just how much control we really don’t have, we can truly begin to exercise our faith in God.  His sovereignty is beyond our realm of comprehension.
 
Although we cannot fully understand, we can trust.  Once we trust God with our past, present, and future, we can operate in the undeniable peace that God is working all things together for our good.  When we live for His glory alone, our contentment cannot be shaken because we know that HE KNOWS everything concerning us.  Nothing could ever possibly catch Him by surprise: no illness, no job loss, no financial devastation, no addiction, no________ (fill in the blank with whatever you are facing today).  He consecrated you before your birth, and He appointed you to a specific purpose.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Test is For Your Good

Exodus 20:20 (NASB)  Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”

You don’t need to fear the test. You need to fear God (or revere Him).  Whatever situation you’re facing, God knew about before the day of your birth.  Even before the foundation of the world, He knew you; He knows everything there is to know about you.  God knows things that even you don’t know.

It’s hard to just relax and trust in God, but that’s exactly what the tests and trials are teaching you to do.  He is working out those character traits that you need to live abundantly: patience, hope, trust, and faith.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.  Your faith increases with every act of deliverance. ‘If God did that, I know He can do this’ becomes your mantra.

Be comforted in the fact that God has inscribed you on the palms of His hands.  He knows your name, and He is in control of your situation.  If you are walking upright before Him, everything you are going through will have a Romans 8:28 ending: it’s all working for your good!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Touchable Savior

Mark 5:30 (NASB) Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?”

You know this story. There was a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, had exhausted all her money and options, and pressed her way into a crowd thronging Jesus to receive her healing by touching His clothing in faith. Now that I’ve brought you up to speed on what was happening at this point in the Scripture, let’s look at our Savior.
The first word of this verse is ‘immediately’. Jesus knew instantaneously that someone needed Him.  Someone’s faith had released His power into her situation. In a crowd full of hundreds, maybe thousands of people all trying to get next to Him, Jesus KNEW about the woman and her faith. Her touch got His attention; her need drew His healing power.
The fact that Jesus could be touched fascinates me. He was not off limits to the common people, even those who were unwelcome in the Temple because of their infirmities. Likewise Jesus knows that you have a need, and He is just as available to you. Reach out and touch Him with your faith. His power cannot be exhausted; it doesn’t need to be recharged after each use. Jesus is always able to make you whole through your faith.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

YOU ARE FREE!

Galatians 5:1 (NASB)  It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

In the book of Galatians Paul is speaking to a group of churches who were falling prey to religious leaders adding rules and regulations to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The same thing happens even today. If you study the Bible for yourself, and ask the Holy Spirit to open up your understanding, you won’t be a victim of religion – or not a victim for long anyway.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are free. Don’t allow anyone to negate that freedom with a bunch of religious busyness. As your relationship with God through Christ grows, HE will lead and guide you into what He would have for you to do. And everything He has for you to do won’t be easy, but you will have peace in knowing God is directing your steps rather than man.

Some people search for acceptance by pleasing people. You don’t have to please anyone but God. He has already accepted you, and He loves you. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to atone for your sins and SET YOU FREE. Don’t give up your freedom for religious bondage at the hands of man. The more you mature in Christ, the less you will care about what people think of you. Stand firm on what you know God is requiring of you, and let the yoke of slavery fall from you.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Still I Rise - Maya Angelou

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Life is Too Short

When I think about all the time I have wasted being frustrated or unhappy or just plain mad, I can only shake my head in disgust.  How much of my life have I thrown away not being content?  People always say life is too short, and I have really taken that for granted.  How many people that were alive yesterday aren’t breathing today?  It’s time out for doing things because we feel obligated or because of misplaced loyalty.
 
We must do all to the glory of God, and God isn’t glorified when we feel ‘forced’ to do anything.  So, you have to work.  Does that mean you have to stay on that particular job causing you so much stress?  This is just one example.  When you recognize that there is difference between being loyal and being used, you will make different choices with regard to your time, energy, and resources.  Commitment and faithfulness are very noble qualities and should be appreciated, not taken for granted.
 
Take the time to pray for discernment.  There are situations and circumstances that call for your perseverance, but there are some that call for your abandonment.  Know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.  The Spirit of the Lord brings liberty and peace, not frustration and confusion.  If you can’t find peace in the midst of your storm, maybe you shouldn’t be in that storm.  Stop wasting time; stop wasting your life on things that have no eternal value.  Learn to let stuff go and move on.  Go to bed every night confident that if you don’t awaken, it is well with your soul.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Worthless Things

Psalm 119:37 (ESV) Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
 
We are so often distracted by stuff: stuff that is in no way important to our mission, stuff that is just contrary to peace and unity, and stuff that keeps us bound and discouraged. Have you ever noticed that some of the biggest dust-ups in our churches are over things that have nothing to do with anyone’s salvation?
 
The colors that people will wear for Choir Day or Church Anniversary, or which suits the usher board will wear on the 3rd Sunday are IRRELEVANT! Yes, we need order, but we don’t need to have meetings on top of meetings about subjects that have nothing to do with soul business. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get people to spend money, dress up and come to a church banquet, but almost impossible to get them to show up to a free Bible study?
 
We each need to pray as the psalmist did in our selected verse: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”  If every saved individual would intentionally focus on things eternal, we would have less religious stuff destroying our churches and relationships with other believers. There is life in the Word of God, so that’s where we should be focusing our attention.
 
If we spent half as much energy studying the Scriptures as we spent meeting about stuff, how many more souls would be added to the church?  It isn’t na├»ve to think the Word of God is enough to fill our churches. God’s Word can do far more with the heart than we can even fathom doing with our programs and services. The love that will be generated from the new life will spill out into the streets and compel men and women to come.

Monday, July 15, 2013

When the Place of Provision Changes

1 Kings 17:6-9 (NASB)  The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.  Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”

In verses 3-4 of this chapter, God had commanded Elijah to go to the brook Cherith and drink from it, and for the ravens to provide for him there. So, Elijah was where God had commanded him to be – for a season. As we see here in verses 6-9, the brook dried up, and God commanded Elijah to move on down the road.

God didn’t make a mistake by sending Elijah to Cherith. There was provision for him there, for a time. The brook dried up, and the place of provision changed (but not the Provider). What can we learn from Elijah’s dry brook experience? We need to follow the command of the Lord. God may have ravens and a brook to provide for you during the drought, but when the brook dries up, you need to be attentive to the voice of the Lord.

Just because God called you to a certain place in the past doesn’t mean He’s calling you to stay there now. We, as followers of the Most High, must know His voice. Sometimes He may create streams in the desert. Other times He may be telling you to get down the road to Zarephath, where a widow woman is waiting with provision from the Lord. Not only does she have provision for you, but you likewise will be a blessing to her house. Read the entire 17th chapter when you have a chance.

Know when God is calling you to another place of provision. Recognize when the brook has dried up. Elijah trusted God in both places, and God proved Himself in both places. Like Elijah, we need to be in the right place at the right time to receive from the Lord.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Open the Door

Revelation 3:20 (NASB)  Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. (emphasis added)
 
Notice that the Lord does not say that He will come in unless someone hears His voice and opens the door.  You can’t yell “Come In!” from across the room and expect Him to open the door and enter.  You can’t just invite Him in with words, but you have to let Him in with action.
Inviting Him in is saying all the right things at the right times in the right places.  Letting Him in is giving Him center stage in your life.  Inviting Him in is repeating a prayer in a sincere tone of voice.  Letting Him in is obeying all of His commands.  We spend a lot of time teaching people how to invite Christ into their hearts, which isn’t a bad thing, but we don’t spend enough time teaching them how to open the door.
The door to our heart only opens from the inside.  Jesus Christ will not force His way into your heart and onto its throne.  You have to open the door, and you have to give Him the place of honor therein.  The place of honor is sometimes occupied by career goals, love interests, dream homes and cars, or maybe even ourselves.  We have to throw everything else out of Christ’s seat so that He can dine with us.
He’s knocking, and He’s calling your name. Are you going to open the door and let Him in? Are you going to surrender your life to Him? 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Don't Let Religion Rob You

The more I fill my eyes, ears, mind and heart with the Word of God, the less tolerance I have for religion.  Religion tells us to follow specific traditions, patterns, and acceptable behaviors.  Christ tells us to follow HIM.  I propose that if we truly follow Jesus Christ (His life, His teachings, His commands), we will find that we are doing what we ought.
 
I encourage you to study the Scriptures for yourself; ask the Holy Spirit to open your understanding of what they mean and how to apply them to your life.  No one is perfect, and we all need assistance in rightly dividing the Word of Truth.  We need to stop relying on what religious leaders tell us God is requiring.  Micah 6:8 (NLT) tells us that God requires us to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.  In order to do that, we need to know what’s right, what mercy entails, and what walking with the Lord really means.  All those things can be found in His Word.
 
As long as man is flawed, religion will continue to get in the way of true worship.  It has been happening since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden; this is nothing new.  Religion crucified Jesus Christ.  Religion imprisoned and martyred the apostles.  Religion holds many church-goers in bondage today, with its rules, regulations, and expectations. 
 
Once you know the Truth, it will make you free.  You will be able to participate in church services, without feeling obligated to do so.  You will be able to give cheerfully, without being embarrassed into it or made to feel guilty.  You will know when to say ‘NO,’ because you recognize that Jesus Christ offers you abundant life, not a mundane existence tethered to routine activity.  You will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, continually replenished and bearing good fruit.  Don’t let religion rob you of the joy Christ offers you.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Body vs. Soul

1 Timothy 4:8 (NOG) ~ Training the body helps a little, but godly living helps in every way. Godly living has the promise of life now and in the world to come.

There is such a craze to get fit and eat healthier these days. While there is nothing wrong with taking better care of your body, where is the focus to get our souls in better shape? The world is clamoring for the next super food, rich in antioxidants and nutrition, but fighting to keep the Word of God (spiritual food) out of every possible venue.
The pollutants of the soul are praised and magnified in movies and media.  The sinful and immoral are hidden behind the terms “freedom” and “self-expression”. Light a cigarette and you are a social pariah, but embrace a homosexual relationship and you are an enlightened being. We have placed so much value on the human body, it’s as if we believe we can stop the flesh from rotting. We are completely blind to the deprivation of our souls.
As we become more “tolerant” of those things completely against God’s Word, I pray that those of us in The Way become even more steadfast, abounding in the work of the Lord (I Cor.15:58). There is much work to be done, as many go down the slippery slope of gray areas, popular opinions, and false prophets. We will live forever, but it won’t be in these bodies we currently possess.  We need to place a greater importance on our eternal soul than our temporal body, not the other way around. Training our bodies doesn’t hold “the promise of life now and in the world to come,” but godly living does.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Secret Apostasy

What is apostasy? Dictionary.com lists the definition as abandonment of one’s religious faith, principles, or cause.  How on earth would that ever be a secret, you ask? Let’s discuss for a bit, and hopefully, you will keep this definition in mind.
 
There are so many different Christian denominations and unaffiliated churches in America that I wouldn’t even attempt to target any one of them in my observations in this blog post. I have no intention of offending anyone, but it is unavoidable. We (Christians) claim to believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God. Why, then, do you suppose that we have embraced sin in our churches?
We have allowed the world to bully us into the belief that God has somehow changed. He has NOT; He is still holy. Sin is still a reproach to any people. We, however, have made concessions in the name of God’s love to allow unrepentant people to remain in sin and operate in our churches freely. Is that not apostasy? Either we believe God’s Word is true or we do not.
We shouldn’t attack people, but we should offer God’s Word in love. The church is indeed a hospital, but if people don’t know they’re sick, they won’t accept treatment. As we have watered down the Gospel to keep people in the seats and the coffers filled, we have placed their blood on our hands. By ignoring sin and refusing to confront it, we have abandoned the truth of our beliefs. The deviation from believing God’s way is the only way is apostasy, and many of us don’t even realize we’ve done it.