Thursday, July 30, 2009
When I read this it reminded me of friends, especially those who share the common bond of a relationship with Christ. I have few really true friends in Christ, and yet there are so many out there I've not met yet! There are two people I can immediately think of that I so enjoy hearing from. One is a woman I worked with who, when we found out what we shared, became a much closer friend. A bond was formed. The other is a woman who has a blog that I happened upon at the beginning of this year. We communicate via email occasionally and we also share the same desire to know God more and to realize what God has for us. Christ is our mutual friend.
Yes, I like to see my friend...I like to hear from her. We sometimes get together for spiritual marathon weekends when my husband is out of town. We recharge. Oh, we don't always talk nonstop about God, but He is in our conversation a lot. We share things we've heard or learned, experienced or what God has shown us. The hand of God or the voice of God in our lives. We find, as we always have, that we are constantly parallel in our walks. We share the same frustrations, curiosity, fear, doubt. We walk together because we are in agreement about who God is. (Amos 3:3) And we boost each other up...1Thessalonians 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
We know our hearts are in tune. Our spirits as well. I can be thinking of Gail and the phone rings and vice versa! And it's always so much fun to know that God is teaching her the same things as He's teaching me. Our spirits are one. We are in one accord. It's almost commonplace that we begin a conversation, out of the blue, about something each of us just heard...and yet it still is a wonderful surprise and a confirmation that we are hearing from God.
That's my "physical" friend. Then there's my "internet" friend, Shirley. I found her blog when I was Googling a phrase and it happened to be in her blog. When I read the blog I was blown away and had to write her to tell her so. Our friendship took root. We share some similarities. There are a lot of "been there, done that" moments we share.
I recall moments when I have come into contact with a Christian without realizing it only to have this strong sense I've met them before when I know it was virtually impossible. When the fact that they are a Christian comes to the surface, I realize why I've had that feeling. It's that bond, a Thread, that connects us as sisters (or brothers) in Christ. It is a Red Thread who is Jesus Christ.
I've mentioned before that Jesus is also known as the Word and the Word is also the Bible. The Bible shows us in the Old Testament a Christ concealed various ways. He was a type of the very first animal that was slain to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness. He was the lamb that was slain for sacrifices by the Jewish people. He was the blood applied to the doorposts of their homes just before the exodus out of Egypt to show they were not to be killed, that they were God's chosen people. There are many other examples. It's all about His blood. His blood which He shed for the remission of our sins. His blood is the Red Thread. This thread connects us to God and it connects those of us who are in relationship with God. Is that why there is a red bookmark in most Bibles, I wonder?
I'm so thankful for the Red Thread that binds me with my Christian friends. Only when one identifies that commonality does one truly understand what I mean. Thank You, Lord, for the blood You shed and for those people who have received forgiveness of their sins through this blood. It is by Your blood that you hold us together as friends...we are called friends of God and we are friends spiritually with others on this earth. The glory goes to God for this connection, this bond, this Red Thread. The Red Thread will never leave us nor forsake us even when others might. It is He who has shown His love by laying down His life for His friends. (John 15:13)
Proverbs 18:24 - ... there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
That friend is Jesus Christ. Do you want to know Him?
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
"But Walter was always more than just an anchor," said Barack Obama upon his death. "He was someone we could trust to guide us through the most important issues of the day; a voice of certainty in an uncertain world. He was family. He invited us to believe in him, and he never let us down. This country has lost an icon and a dear friend, and he will be truly missed."
This was a quote I read in a news article yesterday entitled Meet the real Walter Cronkite - 'Most trusted' newsman pushed radical agenda, written by Joseph Farah of World Ned Daily July 18, 2009.
What is this the world has concerning icons? An icon is an object of extreme devotion. Sports personalities, government leaders, music, newsmen, movie and television stars, jobs, money, hobbies...all seem to have a firm grip on people. Michael Jackson, Oprah, Obama...Walter Cronkite...you can name your own idol.
We wonder why we are where we are as a nation when so many people look up to the world for guidance. We truly are like sheep, wandering to our own devices rather than seeking the wisdom and guidance of our Heavenly Father, who loves us with an everlasting love, who formed us in His image because He loves us so much and who offered us a way to become reconciled to Him when we were yet sinners. He doesn't care what we look like before we come to Him. He only sees what we can become. He looks past our faults. Bless Him for that.
So Walter Cronkite guided us through the most important issues of the day. Psalm 48:14 tells us, For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.
A voice of certainty in an uncertain world:
Psalm 62:2 - He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
1 Corinthians 3:11 - For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Who is family:
Romans 8:17 - and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ...
Galatians 3:29 - And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Titus 3:7 - that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
John 8:24 - "For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."
Hebrews 11:6 - But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
John 6:35 - And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."
We have chosen to not look as far as God for answers. Because He's not visible? Because we don't "hear" Him? Because we don't believe in Him? Because we can't trust someone who's not on the nightly news? What could God have to tell us? He's ancient (the Ancient of Days). How do we know He exists? We want to see results NOW. Now is what's in the world today.
How could Walter have been a voice of certainty in an uncertain world? Was he God? Did he have all the answers? Was he capable of knowing the thoughts and intents of each person's heart? Was he prophetic? How did he not let people down? Trust in no one but God. Yesterday's blog gives a handful of the answers about who God is. Search scriptures and find out for yourself.
Only God can be our salvation. No man is going to be able to lead this world into lasting peace. I long for the day when Jesus returns to show us. I long for the day when true peace will be available for all those who truly put their trust in God.
Christ is our all in all. Is He truly missed when we let other things get in our way of Him? Let God be your source, your foundation, the solid rock.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Set your mind on things above, and not on things on the earth. (Isaiah 40:26, Colossians 3:2)
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Death to life? What in the world does that mean? How can death bring life? Even in the Old Testament (above) God was teaching the difference between death and life. It was quite by coincidence, not purpose, that I write today's blog. The idea came to me in worship on Sunday but I'm just now getting around to expanding on the idea. Coincidence because Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest wrote yesterday about the "death side" of sactification. Today he wrote about the "life side."
In the world we view death as the end of life. As a believer in Christ death brings life. How can that be? When we come to Christ our old, sinful life is gone and a new life emerges. Being in sin brings death in God's terms. But in Christ we have life. When we die we have two places in which to spend eternity--heaven or hell. They are both real. Heaven is glorious. In hell there will be eternal torment. This may be a concept people don't want to hear or even believe. If the Bible which is the inerrant word of God says this is true, it is.
In Christ we are sanctified and made whole. Sanctification removes all our impurities. Chambers asks us in his July 22 devotion, "Am I willing to reduce myself simply to "me," determinedly to strip myself of all my friends think of me, of all I think of myself, and to hand that simple naked self over to God?" That is death being removed, the thinking that it's all about me. Today Chambers says, "...all the perfections of Jesus are at my disposal, and slowly and surely I begin to live a life of ineffable order and sanity and holiness: 'Kept by the power of God.'" We need to be aware of our actions and words, that they begin to look like Jesus'.
Do you choose life or death? Do you exhibit Christ's qualities or the world's? I know I'm being perfected. I'm glad Chambers said it comes slowly and surely because it seems like it's taking forever. We may have immediate sanctification upon accepting Jesus into our lives, yet still exhibit worldly characteristics. I guess this is an area I need to understand more. All I know is Christ died for my sins--and yours. I know that when we receive Christ wholeheartedly those sins are forgiven and we are saved (from eternal death) and perfecting begins. It's that simple. I'm thankful I have the hope of eternal life, not eternal death, waiting for me some day. I only hope Christ is seen in me. My goal is for this to happen more often than not.
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
"There is nothing miraculous about the things we can explain." Oswald Chambers made this statement in his July 18 devotion. The subject was The Mystery of Believing. He was talking about when God calls us, asks us into relationship with Him and we accept that it's a miracle. How did it come about? What words did we hear? Who spoke them? What prompted us? It's all so miraculous--and yet not.
Only He causes us to see Him, to recognize Him, to come to Him, to believe and then trust in Him. I know when I first recognized Him. I know He's been revealing more and more about Himself as the years go on. It's even more amazing that the knowledge is never-ending. He continues to reveal Himself to those who actively seek Him. There's always something new and it's so exciting. I can't wait for the next tidbit of information. Even if you've forgotten some great gem of wisdom for a time, when it is remembered there's a great joy and sometimes even more enlightenment in it. These are the wonderful things God gives to His children! Who wouldn't want to search and know and allow the secrets and mysteries of God to be revealed? He will reveal Himself to anyone who has a desire to learn. If you believe He is trying to reveal Himself to you, don't balk. Let the mystery--and miracle--of believing happen.
Chambers went on to say, "It is a matter of indifference to God's grace how abominable I am if I come to the light; but woe be to me if I refuse the light (see John 3:19-21)." Lord, let those who are drawn and attracted to the Light not put on blinders. You rejoice in picking us up from our fallen state. You love cleaning us up so we might look like the persons You (not so secretly and mysteriously) want us to be. You desire for each of us to have the fulfillment only You provide. Why would we not want the life You have for us?
God is a miracle-working God and the wonder of a relationship with Him is the greatest of all miracles. He opens our eyes and minds to some amazing things. Things you will not find in this world.
The fact that God has and will call people is both a miracle and mystery. But the miracle is when one takes the step of faith and enters into relationship with the Father. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. If you do this with all your heart, He will answer, He will make Himself known. Let Him reveal some of His secrets to you.
Deuteronomy 29:29 - The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
It's my testimony. It's a little difficult to write. It's not like someone else's and it may not be as grandiose as others, but it's mine. And thankfully God does not look at one testimony as bigger and better than any other. In His eyes, we are all sinners saved by grace. Our acceptance of the Lord is a defining moment in our lives. Until one experiences the exact moment when the God calls, one will not understand.
Of course I have to reveal some things about myself I'm not comfortable about. Sometimes God heals when we reveal, when we become transparent. I mentioned yesterday that is the power of the Holy Spirit of God that does the calling and transforming. It is then that God's goodness is imparted to us. There is nothing good we can do on our own. "God's goodness comes not through our own resources," Pastor Bob Ona told us on April 18, 1999.
So here's what happened. I was at a very unhappy time in my life. Things were not falling into place as I had imagined they would. I became very angry and bitter with an intense rage welling up within me. (I don't believe this comes on suddenly, but builds over the years.) There are people who today find it hard to believe I could have been so angry. All I know is my poor husband got the brunt of my anger and rage, which included horrible words. He even became my punching bag, which is sickens my stomach even today. As I write this, however, I am reminded at how angry I was even as a child. Where did all that come from? Was it because as an only child in a dysfunctional home I never had a chance to outwardly release my anger or share it with anyone? Was it my first failed marriage? I just kept stuffing and stuffing...
I know now that the anger at that time was not hidden from family and friends. I don't even want to know what people thought of me then. I just know that my sister-in-law repeatedly asked us to join her and my husband's brother at church. We kept rejecting the invitation. I was happy to have my coffee and watch an old movie on Sunday mornings by myself or go shopping while my husband was doing his own thing.
One day at a family function and I asked my sister-in-law a question which opened the door for her to invite me yet again to church. I again refused. She shared a bit of personal information with me and it caused me to begin to weep and say, "I want that." (Only God could have planted that desire within me. He had been at work in me without my even knowing it.) She sweetly implored, "Come to church tomorrow. Meet us there." I accepted.
Being raised Lutheran, the service was quite different from what I had known. It was all so new and yet all so refreshing, alive. I listened to the sermon. The pastor was nice and his sermon powerful. This is where I needed to listen again to that sermon of ten years ago to make sure I had all the words that he spoke that changed my life accurate.
I knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. I had never experienced anything like this so for me to just make this up was totally doubtful. I know we are not always supposed to rely on feelings or experiences, but I believe when God wants you to know something, He can reveal it. I only knew what I felt at the moment I had made up my mind I needed Jesus! It was to be a defining moment, a change that took place in my heart.
A couple changes occurred immediately but I will be the first to admit I'm still not perfect, no one ever will be. My prayer is that these blogs will help me to sort through other issues and work in my spirit what God so wants for me to know, to do and to be. Despite issues in everyday life, I know there's a peace deep within that continues to hold me together. God knows what work still needs to be done and in His perfect timing and His perfect way it will happen. What I know is that His hand is upon me and it is He only who has the power to change people's lives. And He will.
Acts 16:30-31 - …and after he [keeper of the prison] brought them [Apostle Paul and Silas] out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Monday, July 20, 2009
I will never cease to be amazed at God's perfect timing. I mean, I can understand in the big things, like receiving money just at the time you need it most, or getting a job just when it seemed all hope was lost. But in the little things, too? YES!
I have a blog ready for "someday." Maybe tomorrow, maybe later this week. I don't know. I was considering it for today, but I have to share this first...and the beauty of it is that this is a perfect lead in for the "someday" blog. (So I'll probably have to make it tomorrow...)
I pulled out an old cassette from April 18, 1999 to listen once again to the sermon Pastor Bob Ona, at the then Brookfield Assembly of God, preached that very first morning I started going back to church. I had been planning to listen to it for a couple of days, but yesterday was THE day! I needed to hear the sermon again to get just the right words he spoke. I listened on my way to church. The sermon was titled The Goodness of God. He basically was saying that a lot of times we try to do things in our own strength and don't understand why we fail. He was telling us that as believers we needed to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and when we do God's goodness will be evident. Of course, at the time he was preaching I was not a believer! But more about that later.....
What blew me away was the sermon at church yesterday morning was pretty much the same thing. We strive to do things in our own strength and we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit that's within all believers to be all that God wants us to be. A timeless and timely message for me.
As Pastor Bruce Headley told us yesterday morning, it's through letting the Holy Spirit lead that we become disciples. The first step is in letting go of who we think we are and just doing as the Lord did when He came to earth. Pastor talked about the submission Jesus showed to his disciples when He Himself washed their feet. For some reason none of the disciples took it upon themselves to do it! Jesus did this because He was secure in who He was. He didn't have to make Himself look like He was bigger or better. He humbled Himself. No task was too menial for Him and it shouldn't be for us either. How many times have we heard people say, "That's not my job..." That's the pride we carry as sinful man.
Anything we do should be out of a pure heart. Pastor Ona mentioned in his sermon ten years ago that there are people who do good things but not always with a pure heart and that he also knows people whose heart is so pure you'd think they never did anything wrong. I think of unbelievers who graciously give of their time and money for a worthy cause. Sometimes, but not all times, there are those who do it for the gratification and pat on the back or for the tax break they will receive. We are asked to do all things as unto the Lord. Our words, our actions, our deeds, should all be done as though we are doing them for God. How many of us really do this on a regular basis?
Any striving we do in life should be toward God. Fighting against God's plans and will in our lives leads to dissatisfaction and possible failure. This brings up another point, for a possible other blog...waiting on God. Sometimes we want to move something along because it's not happening soon enough. If we don't wait for His timing, even when it seems like "forever," we will frustrate our own plans. Like I said as I started this blog, it's all about God's timing. He has always known the beginning from the end.
I loved the symbolism Pastor mentioned yesterday about washing the disciples' feet. It was symbolic of the washing away of our sins when Jesus died on the cross. Jesus did it because He's the one who has removed our sins through His death. Jesus set an example and we are to take note of that. The first step we must take, however, is to humble ourselves, admit we are sinners and allow the cleansing power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit enter in when we receive Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior. Open your heart to receive Him. He will not turn down the invitation to become your Savior.
So to tie together these two days ten years apart: the lesson is the same today as it was April 18, 1999. When we finally come to the realization that we cannot do anything apart from the strength of God, we will be successful. Not only will we be successful (in life, in work, in marriage, in our walk with the Lord) but we will have that peace that passes all understanding because only God can provide to us what we truly need. We need His strength, His wisdom, His power to get us where we need to be. Becoming aware of the power of the Holy Spirit within us (as believers) is the key.
It is my prayer that I walk in humility and allow myself to be led by the Holy Spirit each day. Let the power of God manifest itself within me that I will have the right words at the right time for each circumstance I'm faced with. Let me fully understand just how much power I truly have within me. I keep hearing we just don't realize what power that is. Jesus told us when He left He would leave the Comforter. That Comforter is the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 46:10 - Be still [cease striving], and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
Friday, July 17, 2009
The other day I was reading this scripture and there was a little handwritten note in the margin saying "our boundary." Then yesterday I was reading Psalm 16 and saw another note next to the beginning of the Psalm: "re: boundaries." Of course I remembered note #1... Aha!
We all know about boundaries. We have them in everything we do in our lives. We have boundaries in relationships...don't get too close because I'm not comfortable. There's a Christian book out on boundaries that I picked up years ago when I was determining if it was okay to set them up with a particular friend--for my own sanity! There are boundaries with what we eat...I'll eat that but not that. There are boundaries about where we will live...I like the country but don't ask me to live in the city, Arizona but not Florida! There are boundaries about the music we listen to...the books we read...the type of people we want as friends. You understand. I believe the choices we make are even boundaries.
Another word study...a simple one this time. A boundary, according to Webster, is "something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent." In the Old Testament the definition was that of territory coming from a root word meaning "to border or set bounds." I wondered why there was nothing in the New Testament other than the "border of the hem of their garments." Perhaps the boundary had been set in the OT in the laws, the commandments. When Jesus came He did not come to eliminate the law, but to fulfill it. He became the boundary.
It suddenly occurred to me, though, that as a Christian I have boundaries as well. My boundaries should be within Him. I should set my standards according to His. He is to be our boundary. I realized that all that He has written in the Bible is a boundary. It is our tool for right and wrong and what He expects.
In Psalm 16 I noted the boundaries:
In You I put my trust (vs 1)
My goodness is nothing apart from You (vs 2)
You are my portion (vs 5)
You give me counsel (vs 7)
You are at my right hand (vs 8)
You are my redemption (vs 10)
You are my path of life, fullness of joy, eternal pleasures (vs 11)
Any promise of God is set up within those boundaries. Without those boundaries we are not secure. It's all about that relationship we need to have with our Father, with Jesus. If we maintain those godly boundaries, we are secure in them. We have nothing to fear, we have someone who will hear us when we call, we have the assurance of eternal life in Christ. It's all about being "in Him," "in relationship." "In" denotes a boundary: on the inside, within. His boundaries are not to cause us discomfort but to feel freedom within.
Colossians 2:3, 10 - in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge...and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
God is in control. All my writing about His being in control of ALL things just won't quit! I will sound like a broken record, but that's because this is the number one truth we must believe. He is our Creator. How could He not know all things? We are admonished to trust Him in all things, even if we don't understand what's happening.
It may be easier said than done when we are hit with a circumstance we have not expected. It may be major or minor. Doesn't matter. Or it may seem easy to trust when things are going smoothly in life. It's when the going gets tough that we are truly tested.
We, again--the broken record--are seeing how this world is turning upside down. People are questioning what's happening. We are trying to find someone to blame, whether it's a nationality, a religious denomination or a leader of a nation. There definitely is a rumbling taking place...at least one I'm aware of. Nothing is as it was in years past but we have no choice but to move forward. Even if the future looks ominous, we have to look forward to it.
God is not surprised by what is happening in the world or in our lives. In fact, no doubt, it's part of His plan. He can use uncomfortable, even outright disastrous circumstances in our lives or in the world to bring about His will. He uses good and bad. I'm convinced the bad comes to open our eyes to change--to get back on the right track. Hah! There's that word "right" I wrote about yesterday.
For Christians that right track is setting our eyes back on Jesus, the Way. As I read Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest this morning he talked about Divine control. He said, "[God] urges us to keep our minds filled with the notion of [His] control behind everything, which means that the disciple must maintain an attitude of perfect trust and an eagerness to ask and to seek." Ask Him "what is it I need to learn in this circumstance?" I've been asking Him that this past week.
The other day I mentioned if God is not in it, it won't happen (July 14). Chambers adds: "Nothing happens in any particular unless God's will is behind it, therefore you can rest in perfect confidence in Him." God may choose to make some changes in each of our lives if they are not part of His plan. That may be one of Piper's "new markers" in our lives. Can we trust Him enough to recognize the marker and then move on?
It's becoming more obvious there's one underlying message--there is a God and we need to learn to trust Him. When we do this, all other things will fall into place in our lives because His hand is on our life--His chastening, His teaching, His love. Hallelujah!
1Samuel 2:6-8 - The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up...For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and He has set the world upon them.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I've been writing (reading) a lot about this fallen world. About how it is growing steadily worse with rulers of the world out for their own gain. I don't know that they truly look for peace as much as power.
Do any of these rulers place any importance in God as the ultimate Ruler? I doubt it. Psalm 2:4b tells us The LORD shall hold them in derision.
A day will come when they will be brought low. They will realize they have no power. They will recognize Him who they have scorned. They will, beyond question, see who has the true throne. God tells us further in Psalm 2:6 "Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion." There will be no denying it. Jesus will come to rule the world and all the righteous will be allowed to partake in this new life.
(As I read this I noticed the word "right" in "righteous." Another word study. I love doing them! Righteous, according to Webster is "morally right; being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper, conforming to facts or truth." Isn't that all what God says is His Word--right, true and just? My thoughts went to conservatives or Republicans. They are considered the "right." Wikipedia gives this definition: "In politics, right-wing, political right, rightist and the Right are terms applied to positions that focus on preserving traditional or cultural values and customs...conservatives, reactionaries, monarchists, aristocrats, religious fundamentalists, and nationalists...a strong belief in transcendent values that found support in such institutions as the church, the family, and the state." Again, it sounds like the world's version of what God desires. Right also means correct.)
God instructs these kings to "be wise, be instructed and serve the LORD with fear and be among the blessed whose trust is in Him." (Psalm 2:11-12) No man on this earth who is without the fear of God will survive. We are told to humble ourselves, not puff ourselves up. God does not like proud and arrogant people. He does not like those who will not submit to His authority. He is, after all, one who knows all things, knows what we need and commands our obedience to Him. He is our Supreme Authority. Why shouldn't we trust and follow Him?
We are basically a sinful, proud, vain people who think only of ourselves. I suspect that the world as we know it will struggle more and more with the things of God and work harder than ever to totally reject Him. What seems good will be evil and what is evil will prevail. But for those people, their day will come...and so will the Lord! LORD, help us.
Galatians 6:7 - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I've read this before but this time I was struck by the importance.
For over 6,000 years God has made Himself known. Has He faded away? No. Has His Word faded? No. Although the mention of His name, or even more specifically, the name of Jesus, is trying to be squelched, I can guarantee it never will. I keep remembering the scripture in Acts 5:39: But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. Matthew 15:13 sort of says it in reverse: But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted." Hmmmm, I even see a similarity between this and the dividing of the wheat from the chaff which I wrote about last week. What is good will remain; what is evil will perish. God's Word is truth and will endure.
We may see the attempt to banish God and His Word in this world but it will never happen. Those who mock, criticize or blaspheme Him/it will realize their error when "every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:11)
I consider the small country of Israel. How long it has been in existence and how nations have tried to eliminate it. It hasn't happened--and no matter how devastated it might become, there will always be a remnant of people. God's hand upon her will not allow total destruction. It is God's land and it contains His covenant people. Anyone fighting against Israel will be fighting against God.
Like Israel, the Word of God has been a thorn in some people's sides. They cannot tolerate the narrowness of it as they perceive it. It does not conform to their lifestyles so it also is mocked or criticized. The Word of God will never be shut out, nor will His people. The Word of God has been and is still being planted throughout the world.
Revelation 21:5 - Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me [John, the Apostle], "Write, for these words are true and faithful."
Monday, July 13, 2009
I received a call Saturday afternoon from a friend from my past. She became my first husband's second wife and that's when we became friends! We have not seen or talked to each other for several years. Her call left me speechless. She informed me that Stephen, my first husband, died early that morning. He was 61. He had moved to Grand Junction, Colorado 10 years ago, the last time I had contact with him, and just moved back to Madison, Wisconsin, and dissolved his business when his melanoma returned "with a vengeance." He refused further treatment. She went on to say that he lived a full, successful life in his work, in the community and church. In April he had received an award of excellence for his business achievements from the college he attended. We always remained friends after our divorce although we did not see each other often.
I always thought I would see him again some day. I thought we would catch up on how we are faring in life, what we were doing, what has changed. He will never know my heart. I do not believe he had a relationship with the Lord. The church he attended believed Jesus was only a teacher and prophet but not the Son of God. I know that we never know for sure just what happens in our last days, hours or minutes. The Lord is patient, desiring that none should perish (2Peter 3:9). In times like this hopefully one tends to think more about the spiritual things of God. I can only pray that Stephen was visited in some way by someone and allowed his spirit, his heart to receive Him.
When I woke up Sunday morning and heard the birds singing, the big bullfrog croaking and saw the sun just beginning to rise, I thanked God for another day. I thanked Him for all He has given me and for the promise that one day I will experience Heaven and it will be more glorious that all that is outside the windows of our house. Nothing in our life is sure. Without Christ as our foundation our lives are meaningless. In a moment's notice your life, my life, anyone's life, can be taken. That's why it is so important to have that relationship with God. That is why He is constantly planting seeds within our hearts that we might allow them to be watered, grow and mature in the knowledge of Him. I know there are some who will disagree with this. I'm just thankful that does not include me.
The obituary stated he was a wayfinding expert. I knew this was his profession but felt led to look up the definition. I say "led" because I know it was the Holy Spirit's leading when I read this: it is a means to finding your way when you are in an unfamiliar location, or simply put, a help when you are lost. It means knowing where you are and your destination, following the best route, recognizing your destination, and finding your way back.
There is just nothing in my life that somehow doesn't have a spiritual connotation. I can't help seeing Jesus in everything. Didn't Jesus come to this earth to help us find our way? We are like sheep, according to God's Word, and we tend to wander and get lost. Jesus shows us the direction we need to take. The destination? Heaven and eternal life. The best route? Jesus. Not only is He the Shepherd for the lost, He is called the Way. He is the One who finds us then points us in the right direction to the right destination. With His help, His guidance, we will recognize that destination--before we even arrive. And if we wander or stray, He is there to lead us back to the best route--to Him.
One thing that struck me in the death notice was that being a wayfinding expert, "he designed his journey through cancer deliberately, deftly and with elegance that was his signature style." No doubt he had strength in his resignation. I can only pray that his strength came from the Lord. I know that only God is the Master Planner. He knows the number of our days and it is at His hand that our lives end.
I pray that his mother and brothers, even if they do not recognize it, will experience the peace that only God can bring. I pray that they will experience God. Let their hearts be willing to receive.
Psalm 48:14 - For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Before technology, threshing was how grain and chaff were separated. It began with severe beating of the grain. When there was only a combination of grain and chaff, they were both tossed into the air on a windy day. It was called winnowing. The chaff, being lighter than the grain, would be taken away by the wind leaving the grain of wheat to fall to the ground. This is much like how God prepares us. He tosses us in to situations so that more of our chaff is removed, producing the heart of the grain that is fuller and healthier. It's good that He does this.
Our country, this world, are in turmoil. Wars and rumors of war abound. Will North Korea attack? What's going on with China? Why is the US turning upside down (as far as some believe)? Where does Russia, the EU, NATO fit into the plans for the return of Christ? Even our own lives can be in confusion, as I have experienced these past few days. Why is this happening? How does this fit into God's plan for my life?
God is shaking us. He is about to do something in this world and/or in us. In His eyes Christians are being tested and refined, separated like wheat from the chaff. He wants to see the chaff removed not only from our own lives, but the world. We as individuals and the world are at the threshing floor.
We have heard that the Lord will return someday. We've heard what the last days will be like. We also know we cannot know the day or hour. However, as the Lord would desire, we must keep our eyes on what's happening in the world--read the signs. In the process He will sift us to determine who will remain steadfast, like the wheat after having landed on the ground, or who will scoff, being separated and eventually burned like the chaff. (Like heaven or hell...which do you choose?) Will we be ready? Will we know the signs of His return?
I would much rather err side of safety and believe than to be altogether clueless or unbelieving, scoffing. True, people in the past have prophesied the return of Christ and have been totally wrong. If someone tells you that Christ will return on a certain date at at certain time in a certain year, don't believe them. Just know that He will be returning--it could be today, tomorrow or 100 years from now--but if we die--and that could be today, tomorrow or 10 years from now--and we have not asked Jesus into our lives and submitted to His sovereignty, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That may sound narrow minded, but Jesus Himself tells us "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." I hope to be counted as the "few."
God is who He says He is and if He has said something will happen, it will. I cannot go on with my life believing nothing will happen soon. I want to be prepared. I want to know that I will be part of the wheat and not the chaff. This is tough love, God's way. You must believe the love of God is so strong for all people. He chastens whom He loves. I want my spiritual ears and eyes to be ready for the final call. When the LORD calls, like the wheat, those who believe, who are steadfast in Him, will see the rewards of their chastening and separation. Let us allow the shaking to take place in our lives.
God's definition of "the wicked" are those who have rejected Him, who have scoffed, who have chosen to believe that all this Jesus stuff is nonsense. A strong word from an Old Testament prophet tells us in a similar way to the wheat and the chaff:
Malachi 4:1 - "For behold the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch."
See the Roman Road discussion on the right of this blog.....
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I have to take a break in my thoughts this week. I'm still wondering about the over reaction to all this stuff about Michael Jackson. It bothers me that someone with his lifestyle, which started innocently enough but with popularity and money turned itself into something quite bizarre, could be elevated to such a high position in this world. My thoughts may be jumbled....
There is One who is the true epitome of this thing called love. NO MAN ON EARTH CAN DO THIS...NONE! Only the King of kings, Jesus Christ, should be elevated to His rightful status in this world. There is only one King of kings and it's not the King of Pop. I'm sorry MJ had a bad relationship with his father, perhaps suffered with low self-esteem which eventually turned his whole life upside down. I'm sorry he had to succumb to drugs and perhaps trusted too well the plastic surgeons. His money could buy anything anyone was willing to give him. That alone is sad. He had it all and what did it really get him?
I'm feeling disquieted in my spirit about all this. All this attention to one person is wrong. Even some unbelievers recognize it's wrong. Those who support all the hoopla need a reality check. It's not all about one fragile individual who could not keep his life in a balanced condition but allowed himself to live on the edge. Along with the stories and publicity about his memorial came another lesser publicized one..that of the father of a recently killed soldier. Here is a young man who has fought for the freedom of this country, and he is lost in the Michael Jackson "legend." Why should all coverage, even in conservative media, be so focused on one person? (Of course, I know the answer...the world does not know Jesus Christ.)
We've had politicians debating whether or not to honor Jackson as a great "humanitarian." I've said it before, MJ was talented. But how in the world can someone who knows of Jackson's odd behavior be accepting of it and lift him up to idol/icon, god-like status and turn a blind eye to his behavior? I would not go so far as to speak the unkind words that one Republican representative used to name him. I'm not quite that heartless. I'm sorry MJ made bad choices in his life. I think about those changes and I can't help but say all I feel is darkness. He entered into a dark place in his life and was without the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. He could have been saved, but he was not.
Our God is a God of peace and love. Yes, there can be ups and downs living in His world, but He always promises a good end, even if that end is death...with promise of eternal life. Our God speaks harshly about Jackson's lifestyle and the others who choose to live like this. Our God desires that we live in a peaceful setting, under His wings and place Him in the center of our lives. Our God is to be high and lifted up. His name is to be worshiped. His name is ABOVE all names. There is none greater than He.
Jackson may have attempted to bring love into the world, but he failed...because he was just one person. How can people not look up to the God who created this world and created us? How can people not worship Him? He alone has our life in His hands. Without Him we are nothing. Without Him we don't have eternal life. Without Him there is no peace. Michael Jackson was no greater than you or I in the eyes of God. His accomplishments, or anyone else's, are of little consequence if they are done without God's glorification. There's a bumper sticker: No Jesus, No Peace - Know Jesus, Know Peace. That about sums it up.
Lamentations 3:41 - Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I have been bombarded this week with devotions that are speaking to what I'm going through these days. Yes, going through! Although it may not show I'm going through stuff!
Monday I read from Oswald Chambers about Vision and Reality in his My Utmost for His Highest: "We always have visions, before a thing is made real. Whe"
I wrote yesterday about a perfect heart and the day before about failing after having achieved success the week before. The Lord's vision was made real last week. It seemed real, at least. I was determined, but was that determination in my own strength once He had revealed His plan to me? Yes, I felt peace over letting go of something...true peace. But the devil doesn't want us to obtain peace. So he flung the temptation in the form of a fat lie basically claiming the vision was not real. I did not have the strength to do what had been suggested.
Well, in the name of Jesus, I can! And I will. I am a child of God, redeemed from the snares of the devil. Like Job, I can be tested by the enemy, but I still will be a child of God. We can be calling out to the Lord at the moment we sense something is wrong. He is our hope in times of trouble. Focusing on Him during difficulties will lead us out of our tunnels, our tunnel vision, and our circumstances. It may not happen immediately, but we can be guaranteed that we will. And we will come out with greater strength, greater passion for the Lord, when we see how He has redeemed us, saved us, lifted us above the enemy. When we see His strength in action, our faith will be strengthened for the next bout.
After writing about Vision and Reality, Chambers wrote about the difficulty of life of a follower of Christ. To stay on track with Jesus will require rough patches. But our endurance brings our strength. It's not so much about what we live through here in the world but what follows when we leave this world! If we persevere we will be greatly rewarded...forever. We can be rewarded today with words or awards for accomplishments we've achieved. But these things are really quite meaningless. If nothing else, they only boost our pride and egos. Of course, sometimes it's good for our self-esteem to be liked or rewarded in the world. It's best, however, to be done with humility...true humility.
James 5:11 - If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I read a devotion yesterday about having a perfect heart. It seems my heart is imperfect but God tells us that He sees us as we will be...or as we are, in Christ. How can that be? It all comes when we enter into relationship with Jesus Christ, not our religion, not our church, not repetitive prayers. It's only through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. With Christ in us, God only sees us through Christ. That's why it is so important, so imperative, that we have Him in us...so we will be called children of God.
Reverend David Wilkerson of Times Square Church in New York City states: "To come to grips with the idea of perfection, we first must understand that perfection does not mean a sinless, flawless existence. No, perfection in the Lord's eyes means something entirely different. It means completeness."
Hallelujah! We are being completed daily once we've accepted Jesus. We will fall, we will fail, but God will never be let go of us. Completeness--maturity--it only comes with a heart dedicated to learning the things of God and allowing Him to search our hearts to reveal those things that are not appropriate for a life in Christ.
I have two issues going on in my life right now where my heart needs to be strengthened and purified. They are not at all related but I see in them issues of the heart that need to be changed. As hard as these are to go through, I know I will be strengthened and changed and lifted up and out of these things. My heart is being purified.
Rev. Wilkerson also said: "The perfect heart wants the Holy Spirit to come and search out the innermost man, to shine into all hidden parts--to investigate, expose and dig out all that is unlike Christ. Those who hide a secret sin, however, do not want to be convicted, searched or probed." Ouch. These words hurt...I've ignored chastisement in the areas God is dealing with me on today. Do we truly want our hearts pierced? Do we realize the pain that could take place when our hearts are exposed to those ungodly characteristics we harbor? Do we realize the sin of not allowing God control of those areas?
All we need to do, and sometimes it's not easy, is quiet ourselves and listen to the Lord speak to us. (So I quieted myself...and He spoke.)
"My child, why do you struggle so? It is not My way to cause you confusion. I am not the author of confusion. Know that you are my child, you have been saved by My grace and nothing more, I love you with an everlasting love and I will never leave you nor forsake you.
The hearts of my people are precious. I love when you all desire perfection. I am, and always will, be working in you to bring about perfection. Yes, I know your heart--I know its goodness as well as its faults. You strive to do what only I can do. Just let yourself be flexible, allow the chastening. It may seem hard but the end result will be so worth it.
Look at the people in my Word whom I have had to test and chasten, whose hearts were hard or rebellious...yes, even fearful...despite their devotion to Me. It's your nature but I am in the midst of your heart just the same. I am perfecting it though you don't always know it. Just cling to Me, stay in My presence and look to My strength. Call out to Me immediately and I'll respond. I'm but a thought or call away. I will work on that heart of yours. This is My guarantee."
Rev. Wilkerson had a positive word: "I want to encourage you: it is possible [to have a perfect heart] or God would not have given us such a call. Having a perfect heart has been part of the life of faith from the time God first spoke to Abraham: 'I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." (Genesis 17:1)
We can believe God's words to us. No matter what we think about the condition of our heart, He has promised us:
Ephesians 1:13-14 - In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Monday, July 6, 2009
This is something to be very thankful for. Our sins are greater than we believe or acknowledge. Not a day goes by that we don't sin in some way. It's inherent...that rebelliousness, that self-centeredness, that stubbornness. What a word this was for me this morning. God has not dealt with us according to our sins. If we are believers and followers of Christ, despite our sins He does not dispense the punishment we deserve. How can He do that? For us it's all about our pride. It's all about our feelings. So often when we've been hurt or angered by someone don't we sometimes cry out for justice with words or angry thoughts? He doesn't do that. I know His ways are not like ours and I know that His thoughts aren't like ours. How CAN we be more like Christ with these things creeping in?
This weekend I lost the peace that God had granted me late last week. It grew slowly throughout the day and without warning struck. I don't think I even realized what was happening. All I remember is my mind fading and going blank then feeling like I was in this long tunnel of darkness with no end. I had tunnel vision on the circumstance. I remember weeping in my car and crying out to God, "What happened to the peace You gave me? Why did it go? Why did I let it happen?" And then pleading, "Please bring my peace back. I want that peace again." How 48 hours could change what I had settled in my heart. I know how the change came about. I know who caused it. I know who wanted to steal that peace. And I knew Who to run to for help. Unfortunately, for a couple hours I struggled with that turmoil, not being able to let it go.
I allowed sin to enter into my spirit and uproot the peace. I'm thankful for a God who knew this would happen before it did. I'm thankful for a God who saw me rant and rave and then settle down but did not get angry or disown me. I'm thankful for a God who hears me cry out in anguish over a circumstance I have no control over. I'm thankful for a God who accepts my apology and forgives, despite the unhealthy display of anger and words. What I still can't understand is how I allowed it? It was not something I wanted to do.
I hope this is a lesson for next time. What did I learn? How will I handle the next one, because I know there will be a "next one." Thank the Lord He knows our sinful natures and allows us to ask for forgiveness over and over. Isn't that part of what communion with God is all about anyway? It's the humility we experience in the presence of an awesome God and our ability to humble ourselves before Him...coming just as we are....and asking for forgiveness. Lord, I thank You and I do ask for forgiveness. I ask for Your strength the endure the "next one."
Psalm 103:11-12 - For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Ah, finally I have come to a point where I have happily, peacefully and gratefully allowed myself to let go of something that was burdening me, continually upsetting me and causing irritation. The peace comes from the Lord. I know that I have been fighting a battle that only God can win and I've been trying on my own to do His work. Tsk, tsk. It's awful and joyful at the same time when you finally realize you've been subconsciously arguing with God, or just plain ignoring the still small voice in your spirit.
This battle isn't against an physical enemy. It's a spiritual battle, one that the devil would just as soon see me continue to fight. Why do we do this to ourselves? We sometimes know all along we're fighting against Him and probably causing more harm to a situation than good. But you know what? I love the feeling of freedom and peace when you just let it go. It's a great "aha" moment. There was no struggle but a form of resignation that was not uncomfortable at all. Again, the peace comes from the Lord. I can say that once you've tasted that kind of peace and you know what you did (if it truly was you!), you hope it will happen more frequently in other areas of life!
When you know...when you sense that nagging feeling...and you are in the midst of a troubled spirit and a, or some, circumstance(s) is causing you grief...consider with the Lord what you should do. I think I can fairly say that when I let go I gave up a bit of control and that's just fine. It wasn't doing me much good anyway.
I spoke earlier this week about kicking against the goads. Boy, if this wasn't a lesson in action. You just can't know how thrilled I am to have allowed the Lord to just plunk into my spirit this decision and dedication to Him to do what I cannot. And I humbly and so ecstatically thank God for the lesson. I really do come from some stubborn material sometimes. Now He can get in there while I have gotten myself out of His way and let Him do His work in His time, not mine. Who knows, He might get results even faster than I could...you think?
Who knows us better? Who knows the beginning from the end? Who's the One who puts all the pieces of the puzzle into place for results to take place? Job asked the question: "Can anyone teach God knowledge, since He judges those on high?" Another question in Romans 11:34 asks, "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" What right do I have to think that I can outdo Him in anything? My only question to Him today is, "Why on earth did it take so long?!" And a request as well, "Don't ever let me be so stubborn again."
I'm glad God has patience. He needs a lot of patience with me, I fear. I seem to be a slow learner in some respects. I'm just grateful that He hasn't given up on me and keeps pushing me to do better. And this comes at a time when I've been wondering if He's been doing anything at all in me. It's good to know that when we allow God to fight our battles, big or small, He will be victorious and so will we...without our help, surprisingly!!! Just remember, it doesn't have to be a physical battle, but a mental or spiritual battle. Whatever kind of battle, the Lord is there for you if you allow Him.
I especially like this because it's so true:
Exodus 14:14 - The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I've been "stuck" in the book of Job. I really wish I were somewhere else but there's wisdom here. This book is frustrating, critical and determined. And to be honest with you, there are times I just don't get it. However, it shows how we can be under the enemy's attack and that perseverance is the answer. Job was a godly man with wealth and family. Job was tested and his faith put on the line.
Satan was attempting to frustrate Job and cause him to curse God to prove Job was not as godly a man as everyone thought. It was in an attempt to make God look foolish. How foolish is that? But this is what the enemy does. It's his desire to bring separation between man and God. There is a fight in the heavenlies and on earth right now for this very thing. God allowed Satan to test Job, but only under His almighty power. He could take away his possessions and family and bring disease upon him, but could not take his life. It basically shows that although one can be godly, God still will allow suffering and man cannot always understand God's way. It is our trust in all things that God desires. Without testing I believe we grow stagnant in our walk with God. Our trust in Him would become lax.
Job had three friends who meant well as they attempted to define Job's suffering as brought on by sin. Isn't it just like a man to want to "fix" things instead of just listening? They were all considered wise men with man's wisdom and understanding of sin. They accused Job of having unconfessed sin in his life and because of this God was bringing punishment upon Job. As they accused they also tried to comfort but their words only wounded Job. They tried to answer the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" but no amount of understanding of God's Word or the Law can give the answer to this question. God is Almighty and is a great mystery sometimes.
Job's wife was a bitter woman who tried to get Job to just "curse God and die." She, like his three friends, couldn't understand how he could continue to maintain his righteousness through all this testing. She had become hard-hearted because of all that was taken from them and didn't want to hear what Job had to say. They both suffered great loss and she was now having to "put up" with a man who, in addition to losing so much, was now suffering from leprosy. She chose to be angry with God and she may have considered death a quick way to end the misery he was facing. Her grief, not her trust in God, got the better of her.