Friday, October 28, 2011

Come, Holy Spirit

Lord God, Your Holy Spirit is what brings life. Some of Your churches have lost this Spirit. They have become as dry bones. Come fill those churches again. Revive them. Bring Your power. Renew spirits by Your Spirit, not for just a few but for the most! Let those who don't feel Your Spirit be touched by it. Soften hardened hearts, O God. Let us arise again.

It is, after all, Your Church. You have the power to bring Your Church up out of the ashes. I say this about our church...we have been burned and sifted and shaken. We feel we lie in a wasteland. Your breath is needed again to bring life. We must have a sense of Your Spirit again. We are hanging in wait. We are submitting to the sifting. How long, O Lord?

Yes, I believe there is more sifting to take place. I'm so thankful You can raise up an army, Your remnant, from the burning ashes. The ember has not completely been extinguished. There is still a people who desire to see You victorious in this church.

Help Your Church to see not the negative in sifting and shaking, but the positive. Help everyone to not make it a thing about themselves or their feelings or the "wrongs" to others but about You. You are the One doing the sifting. Open the eyes of those who only want to place the blame on others, as is our nature. Remind these people it's about what You are doing...and for our own good.  

We have been cut down like a tree, no more than a stump. It looks lifeless but, Lord God, we know from nature that live trees cut down begin to grow and bud again. Their roots are strengthened in the pruning process. The foundation, as it were, has been strengthened, the roots stretching out yet further for a better foothold.  The Foundation for many in our church is You. You have maintained a hold in the lives of those who have seen the pruning; and we're thankful to be left. Help others to enter into this place. Let us rise above our circumstances in one accord.

Let all in our church have the wisdom to know that great things result when we are in one accord and standing firm on the Foundation of Christ. It is by Your hand that churches come and go. You will work mightily, You will prune and You will grow. You will remove the dross not only from our lives but from Your church. Only by pruning, in both our lives and the Church, can we grow.

You ask when you might see My hand upon this church and I say My hand is upon this church. You desire to see a move of My spirit in a big way. Sometimes My ways are small and they grow. I am waiting to see who will continue to trust in Me, who will not walk away in search of greener pastures where "the Spirit of the Lord resides," where My Spirit is strongly felt. Stand strong and do not falter. Continue in your worship and trust in Me. You will see the day you desire if you hold strong and do not fail. Those who can't wait will move on. My work is never ending. My plans will always come into fruition.

Look for Me in the little things. I'm in all things. I do great works even in the small things, including in My church...I will bring healing. Nothing is as it seems. I work silently behind the scenes. One day you will look back and know that the pieces of My puzzle were being put together, one by one.

A day is coming when there will be a Church that will worship in Spirit and in Truth. It will not worship for the sake of being seen with hands raised but it will worship because it is in the presence and power of You. Let our church be counted as one of them.

Let our prayers be lifted high to the heavens; let them be a sweet incense to Your nostrils. Hear the cries of the hearts of those who only want more of You. Open the eyes of those who have lost their first Love. Are You peering through the lattice? Are You waiting for the cry of all, not just some? Will You find more than 50, 20 or 10 truly desiring Your presence or will You destroy, like You did Sodom and Gomorrha? If there be 10, Lord; if there be 10...

Will You speak to us these words of hope, promise and change for our/Your church:

Song of Solomon 2:10-13 - [and He said]: “Rise up, my love, my fair one... For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines  with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away!"

Will those words be heard among those awaiting Your Spirit to again not just rest but dwell within our church? Come, Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 44:3 - For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Far Better Place

John 14:2-3 - In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 

“Libya is in a far better place,” Jay Carney, Press Secretary to President Obama said in response to Moammar Qaddafi's death. Perhaps they are. I doubt very highly that Qaddafi is.

By no means does this whittling away of terrorist leaders mean we are out of the woods. There will always be someone to rise up and become a new threat. You can look back at history and see that war and the desire for control has always been apart of our lives. 

You can also look in the Book of Revelation where it tells about one who is yet to come, a conqueror, but not a good one. This man will come to pretend he is there to promote peace when he is there to promote his own agenda because he knows his days are numbered, according to our soon coming King. It is this conqueror's desire to take as many down with him as he possibly can. I would venture to say he would not be unlike the Qadaffis, Bin Ladens, Hitlers or any other tyrant, probably worse.

This appears to be what our enemies want. And they will continue to fight in any way they can to see to it they worm their way into our lives and our country. There’s even talk that some are in our country already...

A far better place. Reminds me of the words often spoken after the death of someone. Not everyone, sadly, goes to that far better place. We are in a day and age where the wars and rumors of war is happening. Despite what many think, our Lord will return soon. The question is, how many are ready to go to that far better place?

We can have the promise of this place that has been prepared for those who have sought and listened to the Truth. That place is only in our dreams if we believe that our works and being good will get us to heaven. We cannot be assured based on this. 

I heard first hand the amazing account of a hospice nurse. She is a born again believer. She explained how so often nurses don't get breaks during their day and it's not unusual to go without restroom or lunch breaks during their entire shift. They are constantly pulled here and there. 

She does, however, if she has the opportunity while in a patient's room, ask if she can pray for them. What she found so amazing was that when she does this, or when a patient or family member has requested she come back to pray for them, she is never missed elsewhere. Although she might have no time to eat she always has time to pray to or encourage a patient. Why? She was about the Father's business. Nothing gets in the way of the possibility of another soul being saved.

She went on to explain how truly sad it is when patients are clergy, whether pastor, priest or nun, and they tell her how afraid they are that they might not have done enough or have not been good enough to get to heaven! I can only assume she was able to allay those fears and as so often can happen, see a deathbed acceptance of Jesus Himself. 

There's only one assurance...that of receiving and knowing Jesus. It's about coming into relationship with Him. It's confessing our sins to Him and letting Him heal us spiritually. It's His job to save us. It's His work. We cannot save ourselves. When we let Him show us all things, let Him do the work of sanctifying, replenishing and bringing us peace in our lives, then we will have this assurance. The more we fight against this, the more we lose the battle.

There is a dizzying array of options when it comes to religion, and the culture around us says that they are all equally valid. It seems absolutely bizarre to people that someone would say, "This one way is the truth and the only truth.” - Amy Orr-Ewing, Director of Programs for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and Training Director at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in the United Kingdom.

Amy Orr-Ewing tells us it appears arrogant to make the statement Jesus made that He was the Way, Truth and Life and that no one goes to the Father but by Him. Another point she makes is the idea of exclusion, meaning that not all religions are correct, that there are some excluded from this possibility. One other point she makes I brought up the other day...that His family and others thought He was basically out of His mind to claim He was the Way. 

Those who know and serve the one true God are blessed with the truth. He is our strength and shield. He will protect us against our enemies. He will take us to that far better place by our knowledge of Him. Seek that wisdom; seek that truth. He IS the Way, the only Way.

 John 14:3-4,6 - And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Jesus said ... I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 

Friday, October 21, 2011


John 6:27 - "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."

The Father (and His Son) created the heavens and the earth...and it was good. It was their work. It was perfect.

Jesus, God's only Son, was sealed by His Father; He was proven, confirmed or attested. If the Father's work was perfect, so was His Son's because He and His Father are One.

God sent His Jesus to do great and perfect works. His work was that of His Father. His work, like creation, was done that we might see Him in all His glory and believe in Him. His work is to save and heal.

His Father wants to have renewed fellowship with that which when He first created was perfect. He longs for those days again.

Our works are as filthy rags. Our works are hopelessly inadequate, incomplete and insufficient. We cannot attain this fellowship with the Father through our flawed works without His help, without His work. 

What works do you think you have done to receive His approval? 
Have you realized that it was the work done on the cross?
Have you received Jesus' work freely?
Only His work is perfect and brings eternal life. 
His work was done that He might give that life to you.
Receive Him; the work is finished.

John 1:12 - But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

An Example

Jeremiah 17:5,7 -Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD."
Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. He had a very big heart for Israel and could see the destruction they were headed for. They had turned their backs on God. They worshiped wooded idols which could not hear their prayers. Their hearts had hardened to the things of God. When we abandon God we lose proper guidance. Without that guidance, one seeks their own way.

Like God wanting His people Israel to return to Him, Jesus wants us, another form of wandering Israel, to seek Him. He had a big heart for people. He knew the destruction people were headed for. His heart so broke out of love for us all that He chose to die for us. He wanted then as He wants now, to be the Shepherd to the lost sheep. He set an example. 

We are like Israel when we seek our own ways in life: whatever makes me happy, whatever satisfies me. Me, me, me...not God. As difficult as it may be to hear, these are the people who God refers to as wicked people. He spits them out because they are distasteful. They do not take seriously the things of God. The LORD spoke to Jeremiah and He told him He will give man what he deserves, according to what he believes is right. 

If a person desires God, desires Jesus, and desires what He has to give, He will bless him. God does search hearts. Don't think He doesn't know whose hearts are focused on Him and on what He says. He also knows which people believe in their hearts that what the Bible says was for some ancient civilization, for that land and people called Israel, but today's culture is different...and who or what is Israel today anyway? 

Jesus came to be our example. He lived, He died and He rose again, a popular worship song states. It goes on to say, Hallelujah, for all He's done. As our example He taught the choices we make are important, as difficult as some might be. He taught how we need to give up some of the things in our lives that we so dearly cling to. He is to be our all in all. I believe He blesses us more when we give up what we think we need in this world.

He also showed us by example how we are to be set apart. He was not so well liked by those who knew Him growing up. His claims of being the Savior of the world was a hard word to swallow, even for His family. Mark 3:21 - But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”  There is division among families today for this very reason. There are scoffers.

The religious leaders were threatened by His claims and His different views. If He was who He said He was, He needed to be taken out! And so the people, all people, did just that. Hebrew priests and Roman authorities, Jews and Gentiles...people in general. Who was this Man? How could He make such claims? Even today there is division among churches because of doctrinal differences.

He set an example. He may have been crucified. He may have died but He rose again. What is that example for us? It's that phrase that Jesus used...Jesus...about being born again. This is one of those doctrines that sets churches apart. It separates by placing relationship (in Jesus Himself) over religion (man made rules). It's an issue among family and friends.'s an example Jesus set. It's what caused some people to scoff and others to want to kill Him. 

He is the example. He died so we might live. But in order to live we have to receive faith. And what is faith? That which cannot be seen...not our works...but what we believe in our hearts...not religion but relationship...with our Example.

It's believing what He tells us in His Word. If He tells us we must be born again, we must be born again. And if He describes what that is, it's what we must do. We cannot pick and choose what we want to believe from what He says.

He wants us to be blessed, not cursed. We cannot trust in the things of this world; we cannot live apart from God, which is living in our own way, doing only what we want to. We will have to give up some of our own things, our own ways, to follow Him. It's not about being like the others, keeping up with the Jones', but it's about separating ourselves, not always fitting in with the others. 

Jesus set Himself apart and He taught His disciples to do the same. We can't call ourselves Christians and not adhere to His beliefs and examples. Either we believe what He tells us or we believe what man tells us. Do we believe this as Jeremiah did:

Jeremiah 15:16-17 - Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. I did not sit in the assembly of the mockers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone because of Your hand, for You have filled me with indignation.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Unmovable, Unshakable

Jeremiah 17:7-8 - “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the water, which spreads out its roots by the river...”

We sang a new song Sunday morning. The words to the song Tree by Jason Rizzo go like this:

I want to be unmovable and unshakable
So let my roots go down deep
Unmovable and unshakable in You

I, I want to be like a tree
Planted by the streams of living water

This’ll be my song, God; this’ll be my prayer
Till the end, till the end

As the song lilted through my head this morning and as I peered out the window into the dark I could see a light shining up on a tree in our yard. It may not be near a stream but it is planted firmly...unmovable and unshakable. It's  roots go down deep. It has withheld the storms of the seasons.

Isn't it just like God to create nature and then to use it to show us not only Himself in it's beauty, grandeur, magnificence and unlimitlessness, but by example, like a tree whose roots are planted by a stream?

Our water, if we so choose, is Jesus Christ, our fount of Living Water, the only water, as the Samaritan woman was told, that would cause her to thirst no more. She became like the tree that day she met Jesus. And so are all who look upon Jesus as their strength for all things, who do not search for the things of the world that rust and moth can destroy.

There are troubles in this world. There always will be, as Pastor Rory Grooters told us on Sunday morning during our series on Getting Through the Tough Stuff. No one is immune. No amount of wealth or privilege will be able to prevent troubles. And don't I sometimes wonder if they actually bring on more problems. Less CAN truly sometimes be more.

There is only one need in this life and that is Jesus. Less is more. Houses, clothing, stuff we accumulate is all lumped into the category of things that moth and rust can destroy. But blessed is the man whose trust is in the Lord. Blessed is the man whose roots are firmly planted by the streams of living water, who will be nourished by the truth of His Word and strengthened by His power in the times of trouble. 

Be still and know that He is God. He will always be God. He never changes. He can be that God for us if we search for Him, receive Him and follow Him. Our roots can run deep in Him. He is here for us when we seek Him. Seek Him before the troubles begin. We can be unmovable and unshakable, like a well watered tree.

Psalm 46:1-3 - God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.  Selah

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Golf Lesson

Titus 3:5 - not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us...

I just finished reading a great golf fiction book, The Greatest Player Who Never Lived by J. Michael Veron. If you enjoy golf, this is an interesting and quick read. You can probably read the book faster than my blog! I hope this makes sense...

Near the end of the book the two main characters meet. The younger man, who has read a lot about the older man, asks him about his success in golf. One question was: How did you learn to hit (the ball) so long? The reply was: I never tried to hit it hard. That wouldn't work. The trick is to swing through the ball to a full finish. Just let the ball get in the way. ... Most of the members I would caddy for would just lash at the ball, like they were trying to punish it. I couldn't help but notice the difference.

So where am I headed with this? I mentioned the other day that knowing Jesus is something you can't work out on your own. It's sort of like the proper way to hit a golf ball. When the opportunity to receive Him is presented to you, you just swing through to a full finish. You give in and give yourself to the Lord. He is the one who has found you and has you in His sights to become an official child of God. All you need do is respond to His invitation. Lashing is not permitted! A gentle receiving is the answer.

Working hard to hopefully receive God's approval won't accomplish anything. It's the gentle receiving of Christ that matters. Those who gently open their hearts to the sometimes hard words Jesus has to convey, those who humble themselves, those who don't think more highly of themselves so as to balk at the simplicity of receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, will receive...and go forward in life in ways unexplainable.

We need to understand the importance of knowing the difference between religion (works) and relationship with Jesus. It simply does not have anything to do with how good we are, or the work we think is necessary. It's like letting the club do all the work, letting yourself do no more than hold the club in your hands and letting the club do all the work. Think of Jesus as that club. He did all the work for us. It's only up to us to recognize what He has done and follow through. Whacking away at works in life is meaningless and does not produce a better score in the end.

This old man gave the young man a Rules of Golf book. The young man asked: What's this for? The old man replied: If your gonna play the game, you need to know the can get into a lotta trouble playing this game. Sometimes this book'll get you out better'n any club. You better know your options... God's Word can be our rules. We need to know them to understand the options...what is expected, what is truth. I'm not trying to say that reading the book gets you out of receiving Christ! Jesus may loosely be an analogy for a golf club, but you also need to know the rules, as He set them forth.

Another quote from the book went like this: One fella said...that a putt that was short couldn't fall into the hole...I never saw one that went past the hole fall in, either. We can be just short of receiving Christ, having heard His message and not taking it seriously, or we can let it slip by thinking there's always another shot at it later. Either way, we have not "holed out." We have not received what Jesus has to offer us for that final score known as eternal life.

God's love and mercy cannot be worked for. Oh, He loves us no matter what, even if we do not respond to His call. However, He will not allow one person into heaven without that relationship. The relationship seals the deal. Without the relationship, we are in a continual state of sin...and He abhors it and cannot be in it's presence. If you sense His calling, don't try so hard to ignore it. Another quote from the book states: We can't win if we don't play! There you have it. We can't win if we do not have Jesus Christ.

There were other lines in this book I could have used, but it was the second last sentence I decided to end with. The young man was wrapping up his thoughts about this old man who was a great champion although he was unknown (you'll have to read the book for the "why"). The old man lived a good life by taking a bogey circumstance in his life and answering it with a even the score. His thought was: Some would say he finished with a course record.

Well, we can take our bogey circumstances without Christ and even the score by birdying with Christ's help! And we can finish with a course record. Take the opportunity today to meet Jesus, listen to His words, receive Him, read His Rule Book to know what is expected that we might know our eternal life is secure.

2Timothy 1:9 - who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rejoice in the Lord Always

Exodus 15:12 - The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

I’m sure this is not the first time I have used this title for a blog. I can’t think of any better way to put this. 

Try this out: Rejoice (delight, glory, give joy to) in the Lord (one having power and authority over others, a man of rank or high position, king, lion, prince...God or Jesus) always (at all times, consistently, incessantly, night and day, perpetually, continually, unfailingly). 

Get the message? How are we doing, we who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives? How are those doing who don’t know Jesus in this way? How many can say that in this day and age we can truly rejoice, even though we have no idea what our future holds, or the future of those children and grandchildren who have many more years that others to live in uncertainty?

We are to delight in Him in good times and bad. Words that have been hovering in my mind for weeks now are “I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, Beginning and the End.” When I read those words in a class one Sunday morning I absolutely broke down in tears. He’s our all in all. And we are to glory in this, be joyful in Him. 

A lord is of high rank or position. That’s our Jesus. He is our Prince of Peace, the soon coming King and our Lion of the tribe of Judah. He holds all the authority over us, as much as man wants to believe that they control their own destinies. Revelation 1:18 - I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. There IS Someone who holds our life in His hands. And it is He in whom we should rejoice. We should rejoice over what He has done for us. 

We all go through struggles in life. We are, according to God’s Word, to rejoice in our tribulation. We are to delight in them. Why? Because that brings glory to God. It shows our trust in Him; it shows where our strength lies. I can’t imagine having a life threatening disease and fearing the outcome. If we know that we know Jesus, we can know that even if we aren’t able to win the fight with the disease, we’ve won the battle knowing we will be in the arms of our Lord. That alone would be an encouragement. Those who don’t know the Lord don’t have that satisfaction. They fight in their own strength, which pretty much is futile...1Corinthians 1:25 - For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

We are to praise Him always. In good times and bad. We are told to continually (incessantly) be in worship of Him. How? By having our minds constantly on Him. If we have our five senses, there is no excuse to not recognize God in all things. The sounds of nature, the sights of nature, the smell of a beautiful flower...or the soft, warm paws of a cat... All reminders of the creativeness of God. Even in bad times, we can be thankful for the good we’ve had. I believe God/Jesus is in the back of my mind all day long, not always in the forefront, but those words hovering in my mind.

This world is both a blessing and a curse today. We see tough times ahead. But if we know that God is our Alpha and Omega, we know He has control over it. If we know Jesus, we can be assured that He is by our side, even now. 

This devotion came to me and I wanted to share. It is well worth the read. 

“The magnitude of the disasters does not seem to sink in.” I tend to agree with this statement. It reminds me of the scoffers talked about in the last days. Yes, we must continue to live, but we must also not have our heads buried in the sand, believing that we will always come through the trials we face. Sometimes we don’t. That’s where the strength in Jesus and the joy of the Lord comes in. Don’t ask me how it works, it just does. It’s the peace that passes all understanding. Peace amidst the troubles. We can have hope, as Wilkerson alludes to in his last paragraph.

Rejoice in the Lord always! 

2Corinthians 12:9 - “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Radical Concept

John 3:3 - Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

This is a powerfully meaningful statement. It comes from Jesus Himself. They are words in red in my Bible and I have them yellow and green! If Jesus said them, they not only are the truth, they should be listened to and more importantly adhered to.

We are doing a women's Bible study on the Book of John. I love this book. Chapter 3 is pretty much the chapter to read to determine one's salvation, to determine one's understanding of the term born again. If I sound like I'm repeating myself, I am!

To be born again means to be born from above. This is not a physical birth but a spiritual one. It comes from the power of the Holy Spirit in one's life upon receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior. It means a transformation has taken place in one's life. A change in views, for instance.

Before I knew Christ my mindset was different. I knew who Jesus was and I believed there was a God. But I totally misunderstood the words whoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. I thought that just believing as I did, with my head, not my heart,  made it a done deal. I believed that God would not let anyone perish for eternity because He was a good God. He'd have mercy on all people. 

So how does one believe? I said before a transformation takes place. But it’s not a change that we can make happen. It comes from God. The old lifestyle gets replaced. It's no longer all about me, but about Jesus.

Nicodemus from Chapter 3 went under the cover of night to visit and question Jesus. Why night? He was a religious leader of the Pharisees. Shouldn't he have had all the answers? Here's an interesting comment made from my Dake's Study Bible: Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus [the born again comment] and thought only in human terms. Millions today make the same mistake in comparing the new birth with the old birth. This is the very thing Jesus did not want men to do. The truth is a begetting and a coming into existence [physical] and the other is adoption [spiritual]. And later this comment was made: Jesus expected [Nicodemus] to know the scriptures enough to be saved, but he was like millions in churches today, even many ministers who do not know what the new birth is.

Harsh words? Gnawing at the craw? Jesus didn't preach easy words. He came for a purpose and that was for all to know Him...personally, intimately. If we want to know Him in our own way, we are lost. If we allow His Spirit to teach us, if we are open minded, come as little children, these words are not so hard because we have allowed ourselves to be transformed (and this does NOT mean brainwashed).

Remember, the truth sets us free. Jesus is the Truth. Jesus was radical in His teaching because it went against the “beliefs” of the religious leaders. The Pharisees and Sadduccees believed that if they kept the rules set out before them they were saved. They could not understand the things that Jesus preached and that's why they wanted Him killed. He was a threat. And...He's still a threat today to many.

We are not in relationship with Jesus just by going to church or reading the Bible. There is no one religion that is better than another because all are man made. It's not about religion but about a relationship...a personal relationship...with Jesus Christ. It's between each one of us and Jesus. It's a decision we each must make. I can't make this happen in anybody's life. It happens when something in your spirit catches and says, Pay heed to these words. Just like the fishermen, Jesus says, Follow me. And like the fishermen we are to arise and follow. If there’s a catching in your spirit, go for it! It’s God trying to get your attention.

I remember hearing someone say, and I’m very certain I had the same thought that no one is going to push this born again stuff on me. I thought I "knew" in my mind back then, like the millions in the world today, that this concept was "wrong." NOT! Back then no one could tell me what to do. I "knew" in human terms...but not spiritually. Here in John 3 Jesus Himself is telling us we must be born again, born of water and Spirit. God never changes...His words never change. 

If we don't want to hear the truth, we try to sweep it under the carpet. The world wants less talk about Jesus because the truth exposes lies and who wants to know they've believed a lie. John 3:19-20 - and this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. These are more of Jesus’ red-letter words. They are the truth. And He never changes.

A radical concept, this thing that we are not all basically good people! So, did I consider myself evil twelve years ago? No. I presume most people don't because they aren't murderers or thieves. In comparison to "those others" they are basically good. We are all born to this world in the same way, sinners. And we remain that way no matter how we argue about how good we are until we understand the meaning of being born again.

If a person does not remember a time in their life when they were touched by power of the Holy Spirit and dramatically heart changed, chances are they have not received the new birth that only comes from that relationship (not religion) with Jesus. Ask me about this! When it happened to me I knew nothing about the Holy Spirit, so how could I make up what occurred?

John 3:15 says that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life. It’s the word “believe” that trips us up, I think. Believe on means to receive by faith, not by works, with the vitality and depth in our innermost being. It is believing "on" Jesus Christ. He becomes our foundation. It is "in" Him we abide. Faith brings the transformation, not anything we think we can do.

John 3:21 adds to the understanding that it is not by our own efforts we can come into this relationship with the Lord. He WILL do His part in guiding people to receive Him...that nudging that so often gets pushed aside, those words that make us grumble time and time again or make us think who do they think they are saying this? Believe me, I know. I got snarly when I heard this too often! And one day as snarly as I was one second, the next, for no reason I could explain at the time, I was weeping because I wanted to hear God’s voice...and the next day I did, and I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit..and it was the beginning of the transformation I was talking about.

So, this radical concept...being born again. Not man’s plan! It’s in Jesus’ words! In red! If it were man’s plan, maybe it would be accepted. However, God’s plan of salvation doesn’t meet the criteria of the average person. (I can’t remember if I heard this or wrote it myself!) It is a radical concept. If this seems radical, it’s because He was the point where religious leaders wanted to kill Him because He criticized them for their attempts to keep the laws when they couldn’t...and radical today because there are so many who want any mention of God’s name removed. 

We cannot keep all the rules. When we grasp this and grasp that we all fit into the category of imperfect, we will see a need for a Savior. When we fear today or on our deathbed whether we’ve been good enough, whether we did enough, we might see a need for a Savior. Seek Him now and avoid the fear. 

It’s only by childlike faith and not by any work of our own, no amount of our own good deeds, the amount of time we spend in church, which church we attend or even how often we read the Bible, if we do (which we should anyway) but only through receiving Christ and having a personal, not religious, relationship with Him. Then we have entered into the light, received the truth and realized that NOW our deeds have been done in God (John 3:21). Jesus really does save! His free gift of salvation. These words are from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

John 3:21 - But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Wisdom of God

1Corinthians 2:9-10 - But God has revealed [the things which God has prepared for those who love Him] to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 

I didn't know where I would be headed as a simple thought caused me to start pounding away at a blog. The power of God at work!

I remember years ago occasionally feeling as though I needed a boost of spirituality. I wonder if even back then God was preparing me for a day later in life when He would make Himself so very known to me? So often we don't look at circumstances in our lives as a touch from God...until we actually know Him. Oh, how different life is when we submit to Christ and are filled with His Holy Spirit. The things that come alive on a daily basis. We look at all things through different eyes, sometimes to the questioning minds of friends who do not understand why we bring God into our conversation.

When I was in this "religious" mood I felt as though I needed to read the Bible. I'd grab the old Bible given to me by my grandmother and start in Genesis. It went okay until I'd hit the "begats" in Chapter 10! That's when I'd become discouraged and stopped. I know I did this several times. Oh, had I just skipped them begats and pursued more of Genesis!! Although it didn't read then like it does now, it might have piqued more interest.

How I wish I'd known then what I know now. How I wish I'd had a heart and mind to understand the Word when I was younger. How different would my life have been? What changes would I have made earlier? How different would my work, family and relationships ethics/morals have been?

There's no point dwelling on those things because there's no way of changing them. God grabs of those whom He has chosen when His time is right. What I'm thankful for today is that a change HAS been made and I can go forward in my pursuit of Him and His wisdom.

There's a difference between reading God's Word as I did as a child and young adult without the help of the Holy Spirit and attempting it on one's own. It may not hold your attention; it might not even speak to you. Let me tell you it wasn't until I came into relationship with the Lord that I couldn't get enough. I started a Bible study within weeks and it was delightful. I was like a sponge devouring, learning and most importantly,  understanding. Oh, the wisdom that comes...and not of my own comes from that relationship with Christ.

Today as I read the Word or study it in classes or just mull things over in conversations with friends, I'm still awed by the newness of it. The Spirit of God always shows something new, even in scriptures which have been read over and over. The Word of God is timeless and always for now! I've often sensed that although we read a verse, a paragraph, a chapter or a book, God has so much more between the lines. I don't know how else I  can explain it. It's only for Him to open up our minds to grasp that between-the-lines information. That's what the Holy Spirit will do when He believes that now is the time to open up a marvelous truth to add dimension to something in our life.

I'm one to highlight and write notes in the margins of whichever Bible I happen to have in my hand at the time. I try to always use the same one because of all these notes. You don't want to lose them! As I was searching for an example of a nugget of wisdom scribbled amidst the scriptures this morning, I suddenly found myself in 1Corinthians. It speaks of Christ, the wisdom of God!! Forget the nugget! Get to the point!

The Apostle Paul is telling the church in Corinth about Christ and the wisdom that comes from Him. Paul was originally Saul, a Jew and persecutor of the followers of Jesus. But when He was miraculously set free from his old nature by the power of God, he became a major spokesperson for Christ. Like many of the other disciples/apostles, the wisdom they received came from the power of God upon their receiving, by faith, Jesus Christ. Many followers were uneducated which is how so many amazingly listened to these men as they preached Christ. The words they spoke were far superior than their backgrounds would suggest.

Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 2:4 that the words he spoke were not persuasive in human wisdom but as a demonstration of the Spirit of God. He stated later to his listeners that their faith should not come from man's wisdom either but from the same power of God. That comes when we choose to believe and receive Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.

The wisdom of God, he points out, is a mystery. But it is revealed through the Spirit. The Spirit searches the deep things of God. The only way we can know the things of God...understand by His Spirit. That's why reading the Word at first meant nothing to me. Oh, one might read the Bible and understand some of the stories but it will be surface understanding. I'm not in any way trying to say I'm smarter. I'm trying to say that true understanding comes from the Spirit of God which comes when a relationship, a true desire to know and follow Jesus Christ, is determined.

1Corinthians 2:11 - For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even  so no one knows the things of God except  the Spirit of God. 

When we receive Christ into our lives we are given the mind of Christ. We are given gift of the Holy Spirit to discern and to learn the things of God. This is not some arrogant type of belief. It is not out there to cause people to harumph and mock. It is told to us in His Word. It is there for anyone to take hold of if they want to receive Christ and take hold of that special Holy Spirit power. 1Corinthinas 2:14 tells us that the natural man does not (always) receive this information because it is considered foolishness to them. 

There is nothing greater than receiving Christ, receiving the gift of His power and wisdom and especially having that eternal life with Christ. If you have ever had that desire to be "religious" and read the Bible but it has not captured your attention, ask Jesus to show you who He is for you!

1Corinthians 2:12-13 - Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

WHY....For the Better Thing

John 16:33 - These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

In a  little informal setting in the lobby at church last Sunday, Pastor Andy Horn and a small group approached the subject of who we are in Christ. It reminded me of an email devotion I'd received earlier that week that told us that although we call ourselves Christians it doesn't make us better; we do not have an upper hand in either perfection or fallenness (see my October 1, 2011 blog). The difference is knowing where we've come from and in Whom we now are, where our strength now lies. And it doesn't prevent us from going through difficulties.

We still have troubles in our lives, but how we go through those struggles comes from  knowing Who we are in Christ and Who we can call on to handle those troubles. I recall asking so many whys before I knew Christ when things didn't work out for me. I could always find someone else to blame, too. Today it's different. The why questions might at first want to be thought, but immediately the frustration or anger are replaced with, Okay, Lord, why is this happening? What do you have planned? What new thing is in the works?  That takes away part of the frustration of not knowing...and a good deal of trust in God...and asking for His guidance through it.

It's remembering He knows the beginning from the end. Imagine having confidence in Him, knowing that if you lost something or someone or something didn't work out it might very well be God has something greater and He has to break the ties with current situations/people in order for you to move forward elsewhere, to that better plan He has, even though you might be doing well where you currently are. If you know the Lord, you know you can trust His plans are good even when there are unanswered questions...there's a reason we must have faith.

Another email devotion I received this morning points out that even Jesus was filled with times of unanswered questions: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me (Matthew 27:46)? He called this out as He hung on the cross. He was asking why. He knew why He was there, but couldn't understand His Father's absence at this particular moment. In His greatest time of need He received no answer. Out of His suffering the cries erupted, although He really knew the answer, that at this particular time Jesus had all the sins of the world upon Him and His Father could not be in the presence of sin. A great mystery, seeing as how He and the Father are one...

As Christians we have access to this wisdom of knowing despite our struggles, God still holds us in the palm of His hand. This is not a wisdom that should have others consider us arrogant or superior. It's just knowing who we are in Christ. It is He who is the superior one and He lives in us when we have made the choice to receive Him. It is He who is at work in us. And He is available to all who seek Him for this. Anyone willing to make the choice can be counted as a follower of Christ, a believer, whose thoughts about the way life is are different now because we know Who has set things in motion, Who has created us and all things around us and takes us on incredible journeys.

As Jesus struggled, despite being the Son of God, so we do also. That's why He is to be our example. However, we have the same assurance as Jesus. Look what happened to Him: He lived, He died, He rose again and now lives forever. This is the hope we have. It's that perfect "happy ending." Although we might not have all the answers, our eternity is secure as long as we trust in Him.

Listen to what the writer of today's email devotion had to say: As strangers and exiles, this life is not a journey towards certainty, nor is it always a journey guided by easy answers. It is a journey of trust through unknown territory and even to places of forsakenness. - Margaret Manning, a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

Unknown territory and places of forsakenness. A non-believer might ask, What's the point in believing if we're still going to go through the same things? It all boils down to that knowing Who is on the other side of the struggle and why He has us going there and the final outcome. Without the Lord we do it in our own strength with anger, fear and frustration or we have the choice to do it aided by His strength with joy, peace and patience knowing He is in control and His ways are right and just. Which would you rather have?

We all have a choice. The biggest struggle for some is making that choice. Once it's made life is different. Choose today whom you will serve (Jeremiah 24:15).  The choice will determine your future. It will mean the difference between victory or defeat. Your choice. Jesus Christ is Lord. He reigns victorious. He reins forever. And we can too. What better a Person can you have on your side? You can be an overcomer, like Christ.

Later that morning at the end of our service, our Pastor, Rory Grooters, made the emotional and sad announcement that because of finances they were going to have to release Pastor Andy from his duties as pastor. Later I wanted to ask God why. As soon as the thought began to form I stopped, knowing it was wrong to ask. I even heard the words, Don't go there, when my mind was zeroing in on an area of complaint I shouldn't have entered!

I was reminded of something else that recently happened in Pastor Andy's life, something that may have happened as a precursor to this event. It could be the better thing ahead for them even though it seemed things were going so well. I am deeply saddened by this announcement but also know only good will come from this. There's also that unanswered question of why looming before Pastor and his wife. And yet...although the door to this part of he and his wife's life may seem to have closed, I know they are trusting for the better thing to come from this. I'm thankful their faith in God is as strong as it is. 

Philippians 1:6 - being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Father of the Fatherless

Psalm 68:5 - A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. 

"In a world with reason to be despairing of humanity, there is still the startling image of the perfect human, whose only brokenness was at our own hands. Christ is more than someone who came to fix what was wrong. He is the image of all that is right, and the bread of life for those who seek to be genuinely human" (Jill Carattini, managing editor of A Slice of Infinity, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia).

We saw the movie Courageous last night. It's a Christian film by the Baptist church which did the amazing movie Facing the Giants. Somehow I thought what Carattini wrote was appropriate in regards to this movie. The movie pointed out the brokenness and imperfection in our lives and two main truths: We need a Father and we need to live our lives honestly for His provision to take place.

We are a fallen world. It is broken. It is imperfect. I wrote about Noah earlier this week and God's decision to destroy all things and start anew. Well, here we are back in the same predicament, probably worse, and don't some of us know God will only take so much before He sends Jesus back to handle the mess we've made and bring judgment to some.

The movie pointed to a key issue which can be seen in two ways: 
  • It stressed the need for fathers to be part of their childrens' lives. In other words, children need a father to look up to.  Do you see where I'm heading?
  • We are all in need of a father, but when all else fails, we have a Father in Heaven who will meet those needs and even greater needs. 
However, unlike our earthly father, God the Father is perfect in His love; He will not fail us as long as we don't fail Him. He comes wooing us; He finds us, we do not find Him. When we hear His voice and heed His call, He becomes the Father we could never have on earth. 

The movie stressed that there are way too many fatherless children in this world, accounting for this brokenness. Fatherless in that they have abandoned their responsibility...either by walking out completely or by simply not being there to encourage or guide--even if they are physically there. When fathers are AWOL, it showed the paths children might take without a strong father figure. We are ALL in need of proper don't think this movie was just about fathers.
We are a fallen world. That's why our Father in Heaven calls us to seek Him, the Father to the fatherless. He sent His perfect Son into this world that we might see the Father. He tells us: If you have seen Me, you've seen the Father (John 14:9).  I've mentioned time and again that the road to life through Jesus Christ is narrow and few are on it. Look at this world. Without Him we flounder. Without the need for core values in our homes (and lives), we come apart. But with God as our Center it brings an understanding of good values in life beginning with discipline and balance, of becoming more involved and interested in those closest to us and less of our own.

There were five men in this movie whose lives were addressed, representing five different scenarios. After an incident, one father came to the gripping conclusion he had not been good enough and determined to find out what it would take to become a better father. Being a Christian (and still vulnerable in a fallen world...there's always room for change), he researched the Bible and came up with a resolution he wanted to present to his four friends, one that would make him accountable. Well, they all chose to sign the resolution. 

It was pointed out that although it may seem an easy thing to agree to do, it would become difficult when things were thrown into their paths where choices were needed to be made...choices that could affect their future. When the right and honest choices were made blessings came; the wrong choices only came to bite back. And each man was presented with a choice to make, just like in real life.

Our Father in Heaven sent us His Son, that when we receive Him we have started out by making that first wise choice to make Him the center of our lives.  The man with the resolution chose wisely and sought the original Source for the right answers and the right ways. Jesus is our right Way. A good place to start. It always starts and ends with Jesus...the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. Amen! 

There were other things in the movie that conceptualized ways God is faithful to those who seek Him. They may have seemed fairytale-like in the movie, but I know in real life these things do happen...and not by coincidence. God is a God of miracles and He did say this: Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth. Shall you not know it? I will make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19). 

God makes ways...and the first Way He made was and is Jesus. Who can fully grasp the enormity of that? Just like these men who resolved to become better fathers, we can all become better people...not by anything we are able to do, but by the ways God has mapped out for us. It all starts with acknowledging God and knowing that He sent His Son Jesus to not only save us from the sin and guilt we are born into this world with, but to guide us through our lives, to be the Way...which brings truth and light to life.

If we live honestly (in big ways as well as small), abide by His plan for all of us, we will prosper...not necessarily with finances, but spiritually, again in ways our human mind doesn't peace in the midst of tragedy. God will see how we trust in Him and will provide for our needs when we cannot fathom how we might get through something. He will make that road in the wilderness and make a river in our desert.

Going back to the first paragraph above, [Jesus] is the image of all that is right. These men resolved to be better fathers and it started with a relationship with Christ, living by His example and understanding what He requires. Of course one might say this was just a movie with what might seem an impossible message for today's world. But when one has seen the hand of God at work in their life, it's not so difficult to believe He does make things happen. He does exist and He does work in people's lives...if they have submitted themselves first to Jesus and let Him be their Way.

Jill Carattini further stated, in my own words, we are imperfect beings apart from God. She said Christianity does not have an upper hand in perfection or fallenness. ...the Christian's advantage is simply that they are aware of their own broken humanity within a broken, fallen world because they are aware of the one perfect human.  That one perfect human was/is Jesus Christ. If we want to resolve ourselves in general to a better life, it starts with Him. Some time in our lives we come to a point where we realize this broken humanity within ourselves because of something we've done or lived through, we are convicted of it and we come to the realization we need help. Jesus is that help. Nothing or no one else.

Courageous was in part showing our absolute need for Christ. We can do nothing without Him and when we do receive Him and believe that He exists even today, He will work in our lives beyond our human imaginations. He will forgive us of sin, give us eternal life, which is far greater than what we think we have on earth. He will provide in ways we can't comprehend. He is the Father to the fatherless. He fills voids left by imperfect people.

The path is narrow and few tread on it. We see a fallen world because of this. It's not getting any better, but there's still hope. There's still time to seek the Father of our existence, the Father who seeks us with His whole heart and longs for relationship with us.

Psalms 103:13 - As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.