Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Only the Lord

Psalm 9:9 - The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. 

I awoke at 2:30 Sunday morning. Thoughts were racing through my head, as usual. 

I’ve mentioned I know two women in the early stages of cancer treatment, but not the early stages of cancer. I was thankful to be able to spend the afternoon with one Saturday as she, another friend and I had lunch together and then went to the local art museum to see a special exhibit by the great impressionists of our time.

She explained all she has been going through and the more she talked, the more I could see an uneasiness. This has been difficult. Her world is nothing but day after day of treatment. She called it “going to work.” She’s been quite the vocalist at the hospital and has even given them things to think on and improve as far as outpatients go. This is her way and I’m glad she has not lost this.

My mind wandered some more. If we don’t have a clear understanding how illness and disease approach us we will always wonder about it. I’ve done it myself. Why does this cancer thing seem to be so in the forefront right now? We can come up with natural ideas on the subject like the way things are today in this society...pollution, pesticides, microwave ovens, whatever it is one wants to blame it on. But it really boils down to the enemy of our soul...the devil himself.

His job is to steal, kill and destroy. And that can start with an illness that instills fear, doubt, depression...all the things that destroy. He steals our lives, our joy. It’s all part of his master plan. 

Do you notice something...all the things our enemy does is the exact opposite of what Jesus has as His Master’s plan? Jesus wants us to have life and to have it more abundantly. He does not steal, kill or destroy. It’s all about eternal life. And the devil wants no part of any of us having this. All he wants is to gather people into eternal death, because that’s what lies ahead for him some day.

God does not cause illness. It comes with the sin territory we live in and our enemy takes advantage of that to bring us down. We do have choices...sometimes we make the wrong choice and bad things happen. Sometimes we don’t...they just happen. And when the discouragement comes, our joy, our comfort, our peace is stolen and sometimes destroyed.

With Jesus, though, that joy, comfort and peace can be brought back. I’ve only seen one person since I’ve known the Lord turn down prayer. Non-believers and believers alike know somehow there is something about prayer, even if it’s been a long time since they themselves have prayed. I think instinctively we turn to God for help in our weakest moments. It may not be a conscious thought of Him; it may be no more than a distant thought of God, somewhere out there. But any thought can be His way of pointing us back to Him. Whether a person continues to seek Him and seek Him with all their heart or not is up to them.

Let me just add here that some may be thinking about a higher power. There is only one such higher power and that's God. A higher power is just another one of the devil's lies. There is only One God who is able to heal spiritually unto eternal life. He's the one I choose to believe in. He's my refuge.

Jesus took all the sin of the world on His back. Imagine the intensity of that if you can. I can’t! There’s a song we sometimes sing that says, I’ll never know just how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross. We cannot fathom it. But He took that sin, that pain, grief, discouragement and so much more so that we might be strengthened in and through Him when we receive Him into our lives and look at Him as that Savior, that personal God, who never slumbers, never sleeps, but watches over us each night, sings over us and rejoices over us. What love we can’t imagine, especially in our sinful states.

If we allow the discouragement of illness or disease overtake us, we fall into the very willing hands of the devil himself. The same goes for fear. It’s all a mental game he plays with us. And people, he’s winning. Drugs and alcohol; prostitution; crime; abortion. And more. All seeds planted by the one who wants to steer as many people as possible from the good life in Christ. Oh, but I don’t use drugs, I only drink socially, I don’t know or I am not a prostitute, these are all things “those others” do. Excess of anything is an addiction. 

The Spirit of God can live in each of us if we so choose. Choose. Choose. It’s our choice. I cannot make it for anyone. I can pray that the light of Christ would enter in and have that proverbial foot in the door of someone’s life. That foot in the door is good; it leads to better things and greater understanding.

Jesus conquers all things: Joy over sadness; strength over discouragement; faith over fear, worship over worry. The enemy destroys all things. The choice is ours to make. The people of Israel had a choice to make as they made their journey into their Promised Land. Our lives are the same journey...to our own Promised Land and eternal life in Christ:

Deuteronomy 30:14-20 - ...See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. ...I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

His Way, The High Way

Nehemiah 8:10 - Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Make sure your security and significance is in Christ and not in your son or daughter [or anyone/anything else]. Your identity is in Christ. Your Savior defines your success. Make sure you go to Christ for a cup of joy. Drink often. The Lord’s joy is limitless. (Taken from reading #82 in the 90-day devotional book, Seeking God in the Psalms.)

I was out for a glorious walk yesterday with a friend. What a beautiful day, probably the last for awhile. What I loved about our walk was the nearly three+ miles of sharing about and with Jesus. We don't yak about the big sale at the store or gossip about this person or that. Jesus is our center...and you just gotta know if He's the center of our talks, He's right there with us! And then the lunch we shared...we shared with Him as well.

The quote above from a Wisdom Hunters devotion tells it like it is. As we walked I brought up the sometimes frustrating feeling I get when people "don't get" the concept of Christ. In my heart I know the joy that comes in a relationship (not religion, not denomination). Jesus wants all men to know Him. That breaks down the denomination barriers. Such an easy concept yet, like the Pharisees, clinging to religious beliefs is the stumbling block to knowing Jesus the way He wants us to. There is the belief there is more than one way or it’s their way or the highway. How about His Way, the high Way?

Yes, it’s frustrating because I was once there, pushing Him away for my belief that I know who Jesus is. Isn’t that enough? I have to remind myself, however, that I came from that side of understanding, or rather not understanding. I didn’t want this relationship, this born again concept thing, shoved down my throat...and I know that’s how others feel. But when He grabs hold of a heart...and truth is revealed, you don’t want to let go. 

When Jesus came to this earth as this baby boy and grew into His ministry, to make Himself known as the Savior of the world, He was not received very kindly either by the religious leaders who also "thought they knew it all." They exchanged the truth (of who He was) for a lie (that it's not about religious rites but a relationship...with Him) (Romans 1:25). They just didn't get it. Their pride in who they thought they were as these leaders got in the way of this humble concept that God sent His only Son to earth to die for all mankind. And the response should be: Just give me Jesus, as Fernando Ortega sings!

If I sound like a broken record, I don’t care...it’s all about Jesus! There IS such joy in knowing Him. We still go through tough times but there's an underlying sense of peace knowing that He is walking beside you to be there at your call or prayer for comfort, peace, guidance or whatever is needed. How hard things can be without this in-depth knowledge of one single Man. It may not seem a difficult life, but there’s so much more on the “other side of knowing.”

We discussed how thankful we are that by having this relationship we can stand secure in knowing no matter what life throws at us. Even with the issue of death, we are secure in Him. He takes our death today on earth and turns it into life. That’s all the hope I need. Heaven awaits those who turn to Him.

His joy is limitless if you make Him the center of your life, if you think/talk about Him all day, spend quiet time with Him, seeing things in life through His eyes, expecting Him to be in and around your circumstances, giving opportunities for you to show off His glory!

Joy starts with thankfulness. It’s biblical! Tough situations of life may be just that, tough, but thankfulness...to God...will strengthen and help. Sometimes we allow a burden to capture our hearts and minds. We can't let it go. But when we finally do, when we finally give in to Jesus and say "I’m giving this to You, Lord," because His yoke is heavy but His burden is light, a shift occurs, and joy takes hold again. The burden in our heart lifts knowing that we serve a God who is always in control. A good kind of supernatural joy...

Just take hold of Jesus...

Psalm 30:5 - ...Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011


1Thessalonians 5:18 - In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

Happy Thanksgiving. This is the time (the week, the day?) of year focus--for some--is on thankfulness. Shouldn't we, though, dedicate all our time to it? It should be a daily thing.

I heard a man on the radio yesterday say before his eyes are even open he realizes he's awake and he's thankful for a new day. He opens his eyes and sees the dawn lighting up the room and he's thankful he is able to see because there are some who cannot. He sits on the edge of his bed and is thankful because some may not have a bed to sleep in. And so the day goes. Stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at evening. - 1Chronicles 23:30. We are to be thankful for all things.

We are to be thankful in good times and bad. Some may find this hard to understand. How can we when our life has been thrown a curve ball? When loss has been dealt us or illness strikes in a way we had not anticipated?

There are two people I know going through the first stages of treatment for cancer. No one would wish this on anyone but it happens, sometimes so very unexpectedly. There's a difference between these two women. Although both I believe are fighting in their own strength, one appears stronger than the other. For one, keeping up the appearance of strength is not so easy. I don't think anyone can enter this sort of battle without some sort of trepidation.


What Jesus tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 is what we are to do when we come to a time in our lives where it is not just another day: Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. His yoke is easy and His load is light. We are to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding (Matthew 11:30, Proverbs 3:5). These are not just man’s words; these are the words of God. They are there to encourage and strengthen. Often times it is when we reach a point like this in our lives that we turn to God for His refuge; they point us to Him.

We should be thankful everyday we have this Lord and Savior available to us. When we know Him and know His peace, comfort, strength, promises, He will gladly give them to us.

But let me tell you, He is not just loving, He's judgmental. He's jealous after each of us. He wants all to seek Him and be saved. He wants us to trust in Him...and cast our cares at His feet. He judges those who do not look to Him or follow His advice. He's not a dictator. He's like a father who disciplines because He loves, not that He causes illness or loss to come into our lives. But He's there to help pick up the pieces of our lives  and strengthen us in our battles. 

Life is just fuller when we have this Savior as part of our daily lives. Fuller, more meaningful, richer, more satisfying. He is not a crutch, as some would say. He is a stronghold, a tower, a rock. He is always there with words of encouragement, peace, comfort. The world offers much but there will always be something lacking. There is no good thing that we lack when we receive Jesus into our lives.

So let us be thankful not just today, but always. Let us look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. First and Last. Beginning and End.

Ephesians 5:20 - ...giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks Be to God

Psalm 100:4 - Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 

As we approach Thanksgiving, we are especially reminded where thanks giving should be given. We can start small and be thankful for what we good things we have. Even if we haven't much we should be able to be thankful for something. Think of just one thing.

Take it a step further. We should be thankful as a nation for the freedoms we have thus far. Let's be thankful now before they are taken away. We see in the news there are a whole lot of people who cannot be thankful. What's that all about? How sad. Will that ever change?

Okay, so another level higher. The highest level. Being thankful to God...because it is He who has given us everything we have. If we are not thankful to Him we have turned our backs on the one Who has created all things that we might partake of them.

And if you don’t think we can’t go any higher than that...be thankful that He sent His Son that we might have spiritual freedom...along with eternal life. Galatians 5:1 tells us it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Free from the yoke of slavery in this world. What greater thanks do we need have?

I searched the scriptures for some additional words on thanksgiving and thanks. For His creation, for the love and provision to His people, and especially for offering His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins and the victory of eternal life through Christ Jesus, His indescribable gift! Nothing speaks louder than the thundering voice of God through His grateful people:

Psalm 26:6-7 - I will go about Your altar, O LORD, that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders.

Psalm 69:30 - I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. 

Psalm 95:2 - Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 

Psalm 116:17 - I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

Philippians 4:6 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Revelation 7:12 - Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.

1Chronicles 16:8, 34 - Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

Psalm 30:4 - Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. 

Psalm 35:18 - I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people. 

Psalm 75:1 - We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near. 

Psalm 92:1 - It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.

Psalm 107:8 - Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!

1Corinthians 15:57 - But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

2Corinthians 2:14 - Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

Colossians 3:17 - And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

2Corinthians 9:15 - Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 

1Thessalonians 5:18 - …in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

Revelation 11:17 - We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. 

And here’s one I pray for all of you for your Thanksgiving day. May He touch your hearts as you enjoy your celebration.

2Corinthians 9:10-11 - Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cord of Three Strands

Ephesians 4:4-6 - There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Short and sweet today!

I was thinking back on a day many years ago when my husband and I went to the Holy Land Experience in Orlando. Not quite like the real thing, but a delight just the same.

There was a woman flitting here and there. I remember her name...Jeannie. She was of an Asian/Jewish background, converted to Christianity, a receiver of Christ's miraculous mercy and grace and full of the exuberant love for and of Jesus. She went up to people in the streets and before performances asking if people knew that Jesus is returning soon.

After one performance I had to approach her because I felt I'd met her before. Well, close but no cigar when she said her family (who had shunned her for her conversion) lived in a nearby Wisconsin city but one I rarely travel to.

We chatted a few minutes, animated. There was what seemed an instant connection and understanding. Why? We were one in the Spirit of Christ. There was a bond that only Jesus can place within us...that bond is evident when we meet another who has been touched by the love of Christ and drawn to Him. There is a cord that binds us, knits us together. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Jeannie and I were standing unified with that first cord that is Jesus. 

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, by the blood of the Lamb, that thread binds us together if we have received Jesus as our Savior. Just like the moment we receive Him there is an instant connection unlike you've never felt before. Connection that was broken with our heavenly Father is instantly restored...like the father who received back his prodigal son and threw a huge party! Even the angels in heaven rejoice when we do this.

This same type of connection can be made  and an animated discussion will occur with absolute strangers because He is the Center of it all. A most incredibly wonderful thing to have happen. Imagine if more people would know this.

Perhaps what made her look so familiar was the face of Jesus. Just thinking....

Psalm 133:1 - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Must I Do?

Romans 10:10 - For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

This thing of confession can touch uncomfortable places in our minds and hearts. But don’t we know that confessing something helps take away the sting. Confessing especially to a particular individual over something one might have thought, said or felt is difficult, but liberating, like a burden has been removed from one’s heart. The air is cleared. But it is up to us to take the step to do this. No one else can remove that burden until we’ve spoken up.

I'm not only talking about our day to day life. I'm also talking about the confession of our faith in Jesus Christ.  It takes confession. It is our own responsibility to do this also. No one else can do it for us. When that confession is made, as I've said many other times in my blogs, a whole new world opens up, a world you cannot describe until it does. This is deeper than just acknowledging who Jesus is. That doesn’t count.

One thing that happens with this confession is the beginning of true knowledge...knowing the truth. Don’t we all want to know the truth that our sins are banished as far as the east is from the west...all because we have confessed Jesus as our Lord and Savior. It’s that simple, yet it must be heart felt.

We do not see a lot of confessing in the world. We see a lot of blaming and finger pointing. Personal responsibility is not always the first choice. Spare the embarrassment of being wrong. Replace it with the staunch belief that we have every right to do what we want, no matter what.

These days  a lot of confessing of Jesus Christ has disappeared too. In some countries one can be killed for this acknowledgment of Christ. In our country this confession is trying to be silenced...because for some the name of Jesus is offensive. These people are like the Pharisees, religious leaders in Jesus’ day.

To the Pharisees He was an offense. They could not see beyond their own beliefs. They were so focused on what they had been taught that they missed the very understanding of His words. His way of dealing with sinners and His words were viewed with disdain because they could not let go of their beliefs for a better way.

Hebrews 8:1 shows us that Jesus is the better way: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. Who is higher than a great High Priest and who sits at the right hand of His Heavenly Father? The Pharisees could not see Him this way. He did not look like that to them. They were blind, as I alluded to last week. It was spiritual blindness. They were so zeroed in on their own ideas of who their Messiah would be that they could not see Jesus, right before their eyes, being that Man. If He showed up today how many would recognize Him?

They would not allow themselves to confess He might be that Messiah they were waiting for, even though they knew the scriptures. They waited for a political messiah, one would would come to fight their natural enemies and set them free. They didn't understand the spiritual freedom that comes from their own sinful natures being forgiven...if only they would confess.

Jesus is trying to get our attention in these days. He doesn’t know exactly when His Father will have Him return, but He knows He will...and the signs of the times are very clear that it’s sooner than we might think. The Messiah will come and He will fight the enemy. But like Pogo said: we have seen the enemy and he is us. Some have believed the lies of our greatest enemy, satan (I will not capitalize his name!). The seemingly better way of the world is to sweep Jesus under a rug or attempt to remove any mention of Him. Get rid of the offense.

Every day we see more ugliness rearing it's head in the world...and here in the USA. But apart from what we see happening more quickly each day, there is an excitement and peace because it only means it is ushering in the last days and the return of Jesus. How do I know? "The Bible tells me so."

How can I feel a sense of peace? I know what Christ as done for me and what I’m saved from...the truth. That truth set me free more than twelve years ago. When I confessed Jesus is Lord I was saved. I was saved from the future wrath of the world and God. When I received Christ, acknowledged Him in our church one Sunday morning, and then again when I was water baptized, that was just the beginning of truth. All I once believed, the little falsities I had picked up along the way one by one gave way to truth.

I can't tell you how this happens other than confessing Jesus and receiving Him opens your spirit to receive another blessing, His Spirit, who according to scripture guides us in all truth (John 14:16-17, John 16:13).

God nudges daily. He speaks to people in so many ways. He can reach into the most hardened heart and turn it around, not only because that person has a desire to change but because of His strength through His Spirit. When a person confesses the name of Jesus, the Spirit begins His dwelling place within that person and begins to unravel the absolute truth of Jesus Christ.

This country and people in general cannot live without the power of God at the center of our lives. God is waiting for more eyes to open, more tongues to confess so that His truth will prevail. I think of the Battle Hymn of the Republic line that says, His truth is marching on. Our own preconceived ideas must give way to the truth of who He is.

Lord, I ask that You open the eyes of the blind that they might see You for who You really are. You are the One who saves. You are the One who brings peace and comfort in a messed up world...even in our own little worlds of disappointment, despair, hurt or anger. We don't understand exactly how You do it, but You do. Let the confession of Your name begin to grow. Draw more into Your Kingdom. Open blind eyes, set captives free, bring the peace that passes all understanding. I pray this quite openly in the name of Jesus.

I heard a woman the other day in Bible study say she had heard scriptures many times in the church she grew up in. She thought she understood them. It wasn’t until she received Jesus and confessed Him that those words took on a whole new meaning. Her blind eyes were opened. Like the Pharisees she thought she understood. Confess Jesus that the spiritual eyes of your understanding would be opened. Confess Jesus to be saved. Confess Jesus to be set free. The Pharisees knew all the laws, but they did not know Jesus. Because they rejected Him, His words and works He told them they would remain blind. They said they saw, but they did not.

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” ...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:11, 10:9)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


John 9:25 - ...One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.

We are delving into chapters 8 and 9 of John next week. Jesus is more assertively telling the people, and being questioned repeatedly by the Pharisees, who He is. There is division. The Pharisees have this preconceived idea who He should be, where He should come from and it upsets them that He is indifferent to their understanding of the laws Moses taught (which especially meant no work on the Sabbath).

He came to show us: He is the light of the world. He can testify about Himself because He knows where He came from and where He will return...He and His Father are one. He comes from above. Sounding a bit like any politician having to dispute accusations, Jesus has to say He does not have a demon in Him and He only does what His Father tells Him to do. He knows His Father. He claims "I am."

You have  to understand that the statement I AM seemed blasphemous to the religious leaders because I AM is speaking of God and who is this Man who claims He is God.

Jesus heals again on the Sabbath when He recovers a blind man's sight. For this He is called a sinner. In the end He says: For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind (John 9:39).

This scripture tells us that those who hear about Him and believe and follow will have their spiritual eyes opened. They once were blind but now they see...like the blind man claimed in front of the Pharisees.

But there's more to this. Those who see, hear or are confronted with Jesus and reject Him, although they see, their spiritual eyes will be blinded to the truth if they reject Him. Isaiah 6:9-10 describes what Isaiah prophesied long before Jesus even was born. It speaks to what will happen to those who take lightly the claims of Jesus, who follow their own ways, who avoid the narrow path He demands:

And He [God] said, "Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’  Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed." 

In other words, “Do not try to understand or see...see what I (God) will do then.” Sounds like a judgmental and harsh God. He is, as well as He is loving. He loves so much and He tries so hard to get people’s attention. However, He will never force Himself on anyone, but will in time leave them to their own devices...dulling their hearts and ears. He requires righteousness...through Jesus Christ. Reject the Son, reject the Father.

An interesting explanation of the meaning of light of the world: as long as I am in the world. Meaning, as long as He was in the world He was the light; when He departed, He left His Spirit to convict people of their sins and to empower His followers to be the light. 

The Pharisees knew the teachings on light. They understood God is light because light has the extremely delicate, subtle, pure, brilliant quality, Strong’s Bible Concordance tells us. They did not accept Jesus as God. God to them was without sin; they wrongly and foolishly accused Jesus of being a sinner because of some of the things He said and did they did not agree with.

Isaiah 60:19 - the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory.
Exodus 13:21 - And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.

He had always been there for them. But not Jesus is claiming the same thing. For some reason they just could not “see” Jesus as that light. Another definition for light of the world is Messiah. Their human perception would not allow them to see Him this way. 

We are all born with spiritual blindness. There are lights shining all throughout this world who proclaim the name of Jesus. These lights will never be put out until He returns. Then there is little hope in receiving Him. Spiritual blindness cannot be irradicated except through Christ alone.

Matthew 13:19 - When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why Did God Write His Book?

Psalm 119:89 - Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

Many answers to one question. It's His love story to His children. It's the history of our Judeo-Christian roots. It shows God's love for His people, Israel. It also shows how His love for His people has been extended to all others. Most importantly, this book from Genesis to Revelation points us to our salvation...through Jesus Christ.

There are other answers, but the one that got me thinking most was how this book shows us in ancient, yet well thought out and well described circumstances and through other people's lives, how the end of time as we know it will be.

I am a believer in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I understand the function of each of these three in the Holy Trinity. I believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, written through dedicated, obedient men to pass on from generation to generation the truth of this Word.

This great Book has chapter by chapter detailed the glory of God. Glory from His creation to glory when He returns. This is Jesus I'm talking about. He was in the beginning with His Father...creating. He makes the claim that I and the Father are one...a statement that sent Him to the cross. He is God incarnate, the image of the invisible God. When you've seen Me, You've seen the Father, He told His disciples.

He will return. Jesus will return to rule this earth for a thousand years. We can't even begin to comprehend what that will be like. The Bible, deep within the recesses of the books, chapters, verses and words, describe all these things. If a person likes espionage, excitement, war stories, stories about how the underdog wins, this is the book that will do that. There's romance, stories with surprise endings, some that might be hard to believe. A man swallowed by a great fish? Donkeys speaking?A man building a gallows for a hanging only to find he built them for himself and his sons!? Virgin birth? Resurrection?

Like I said, Jesus will return. We need to understand that and pay heed to that now. I won't go into scriptures that show us what the days will be like on earth before He returns but let’s just say we are seeing them play out before us. Now is the time take God the Father and His Son Jesus seriously.

We can't think that we have it made in today's world because we are successful in our work, in friendships and at home. We can't just sit back and decide we've got it good and rest our way into retirement. We should be focused on our spiritual condition. We should be questioning, if we aren't absolutely sure, the truths found in this Book. We should be delving into it. We should be looking for proof of this relationship that each must have to survive spiritually and be secure if the last days occur in our lifetime...or at least to be sure the future of our children and/or grandchildren.

Nothing on this earth lasts forever. Seasons come and go, as do lives. Look at how many years have passed and yet the Bible holds strong. It's been on the best seller list for many years. The reason it has is because it is from God. It displays His glory and it will never just fade away. It is there for a lifetime. If for some reason it becomes illegal to own the Word, it will be imprinted in the hearts and minds of many. Jesus, the Word, has told us that He will never leave us or forsake us. His word endures forever. It will continue somehow, if we teach others today what it is all about, and about who Jesus is. 

His love for us endures forever also. His desire that we secure for ourselves that eternal life is outlined in this Book. Seek Him, seek truth. Call out to Jesus for revelation knowledge of who He is. It is for all people...Revelation 14:6 - Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language and people.

1Peter1:24-25 -  All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever. Now this is the word which by the Gospel was preached to you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A God Who Participates

John 3:17 - For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 

Read this scripture again...and then another time. Let it sink in.

This is the day You have made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. I thank You that You created this day for each one of us. By Your hand did You create it. And when You create, it is good.

God participates in our lives. He sent His Son, Jesus. He woos us into relationship with us. He hears our prayers and answers them (in His time and according to His will). He works righteousness within us. He’s always available.  His Spirit convicts us of wrong, His Son heals us spiritually and physically. He just plain participates.

As I look at everything around me, I am reminded deep that it is because of Him that all things exist. Man may have invented some of them, but He created each person who did the inventing. We come into this world by His hand and He has given each of us the skills and abilities, the weaknesses and strengths, even a character and nature. (More participation.) He uses all those things to develop us. But at the same time, He knows who we truly can be in His power, wisdom, knowledge and strength and that character and nature can change. He also knows that we are filled with sin, guilt, shame and annoying habits!

We live our lives apart from You in that sin-filled lifestyle until we make a concerted decision to allow You to work through us and grow us and make us in to that man or woman You originally created us to be...the person that has been kept hidden...that person who is blind until You reveal Yourself to us and make us into that person (a lifetime process) who is perfected by Your hand. This is a good thing!

The world should praise You and bless You for this day. You are the Giver of the gift of life. You are the Giver of all good things. I thank You for what You have given me this morning. I bless You.

As mentioned in Sunday’s sermon, He is a God who participates in our lives. He is a God who hears our prayers, unlike a stone idol or carved wooden image. We do not need an object before us to pray to. We do not need a picture. We can sit in a darkened room and speak into the atmosphere and He hears. We only need trust in that which is unseen and believe that He hears.  

I know You are at work everyday seeking the lost, pricking their spirits to come to You. You do not slumber nor sleep. You are a God who participates in our lives...but we must be so aware of it from day to day...we must know You personally to be aware of this. Only You are truly able to remove the guilt and shame we hang on to for things we have done through our sinful nature. 

Pastor Rory Grooters talked about the woman who was caught in adultery. She was brought before Jesus by the Pharisees to test Him, to see how He would handle this situation. The Pharisees were good at testing. Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say? (John 8:4-5). Jesus was always good at proving right from wrong. I don’t think they expected what transpired. After all, they were wise and learned men! They were, after all, Pharisees! Can you say “pride?”

Instead of accusing this woman, Jesus asked that whoever was not guilty of sin should cast the first stone. Little by little everyone departed. And the woman when Jesus asked who among them condemned her, answered “No one.” Jesus told her: Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more (John 8:11). She was set free without His condemnation. He calls each of us to do the same so that we might be set free. And...to give grace in like manner to others.

The question was brought up: HOW did they catch her in the act? Were they aware of her lifestyle and were waiting, listening through the walls, peering in the windows? Who was the other party and where was he?? Was he one of the Pharisees accusing her? (Remember, being Pharisaical means being hypocritical or self-righteous.) Oh, the unanswered questions. Yet the story speaks volumes. Jesus doesn’t condemn any of us. He points out our weaknesses and tells us He will heal us and make us whole. His hand is held out for anyone who wants to come out of their pit of sin, shame and guilt. 

Praise Him that He created us for this very day that we might call on the name of Jesus that we could be one with Him, one again with the Father and also be filled with His Spirit to receive the power to be a child of God.

Lord, remind us to always remove the plank from our own eye before accusing someone of “whatever.” We are all adulterers, like the woman above. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That’s why we need You. That’s what You are all about, Jesus...taking that guilt and shame away. Pastor Rory said: If you don’t think this is you, you have pride. A hard word, but very true. There are many who don’t think they need a Savior, that they are fine just the way they are, basically good people. 

Sometimes it’s that very guilt and shame over something we’ve done that is held secret, that hangs over us like a cloud and holds us hostage as Pastor Rory explained, and prevents us from coming to Jesus. But when one submits and allows God’s hand to touch us that those feelings of guilt and shame are removed.

God participates in our lives. He has created us, we live as sinners, yet He is always looking to and fro around the world for those who will follow Him. He nudges, touches lives, heals spiritually and physically, makes His glory known to all. He participates. He is relentless. And when we receive His Son Jesus, the participation continues. He works day and night in our lives. He cleanses and heals our hearts and spirits. He gives us peace that we do not know without Him. 

There is nothing we have done that Jesus can’t sympathize with. He came to earth and was bombarded by sinful lifestyles and temptations, which of course He defeated. He associated with the downtrodden, not the elite, but He still realized that in either case, they needed Him in their lives.

Right from Genesis Chapter 3 the true nature of our being came to light. We carry the same sin, passed down from generation to generation since Adam and Eve, and remember what God did to them? He quit walking with them in the Garden; He distanced Himself because He could no longer be in the presence of sin. He does that today until we remove the barrier that keeps us from Him and we receive the Mediator between God and us...Jesus Christ. He does not come to say: I see your sin and I abhor it. He says, I come to take that sin away and heal you. When we receive Christ, God sees us in our righteousness. Don’t ask me how this spiritual act happens; it just does. 

There is an intersection we come to in our lives. We must make the right decision and make the right turn. Turn right...to head in the direction of Jesus. That road is a Cross-road. Jesus will not condemn, but will gladly receive you. Then, go and sin no more.

You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. (John 8:15, 12:47)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Greater is He

1John 4:4 - You are of God, little children ... because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Do we really believe this? If we are in Christ, He is in us, when we take His lead and not our own. Why should we rely on our own selves? Who created us? Who knew us from the beginning of time? Who formed us in our mother's wombs? Oh, He has given us special gifts, but He expects us to use them for His glory, not our own. Because He will be behind those gifts.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 hints at the God-sized hole in each of our hearts He put there so we would seek Him... He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

What are we so afraid of giving up for the sake of the Lord? Giving up, or letting go, doesn't mean losing out; it means greater things, greater blessings. The world has lots to offer, but He has more. And His Spirit in us is greater than we could hope to imagine, if we have that relationship with Him. What holds people back from receiving this word? 

Why is it sometimes proof is necessary, actually seeing to understand? This is a mystery of God. Faith and trust in something we cannot see. That takes even greater faith, doesn't it?

I've been rightly accused by my husband that I will listen to a "stranger's" advice but not his! It happens. I admit it. In a way it's the same thing with listening to the voice of One we cannot see and believing it. Will we believe Him over others?

Our Bible is filled with ancient, yet wise, words. They were all written and spoken through the power of the Holy Spirit. They are just and true. They bring life to those who wish to take the time to heed them. It's not so far fetched an impossibility of a book to read. It's written so all can see and know the God who created us. It shows us His nature through words.

It shows us that if we so choose...and choose being the word of the day...we can have the Lord of lords and the King of kings residing within us. But we must be willing to allow Him in. And once He's in He's going to want to do some attitude, pride, addiction, heart and other
transformations. If we think we have it altogether, we lie to ourselves.

Time and time again I have to remind myself that greater is He....  I can slip foolishly back into believing lies, the same lies that the whole world believes....that each of us controls our own destiny, that we can be self-made men and women, that glamor and a opulent lifestyle makes the man.

Sometimes I truly struggle with friendships outside of church friends. Why? Because He's the most important thing. I choose to devote a lot of my time thinking on Him. Here is a Man who is greater than than any man in the world. He has changed my life. I see Him at work even in the little things of each day. 

I'm constantly reminded that what we see happening each day in the world is what the Bible tells us will happen in the last days. Aren't a lot of the things we see self-motivated, entitlement issues? We're living it out. The decidedly poor choice is to choose self over the Lord. 

Like I've said before...it's our pride that keeps us from coming to Jesus. It's the one thing we all need to have removed. Those who are so broken in their lives and need to know the love and strength of a Savior know what it means to have lost a good portion of their pride.

I have had occasion to work a bit with people in or graduates of Teen Challenge, a faith based drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, one that has I believe an 88% success rate in those who have stayed in the program. They are taught they cannot do, cannot be healed, without Jesus Christ.

There are so many who don't associate themselves with "these sorts of people." Their own alcohol, even drug dependency or flippant use of, is "under control." But when it gets out of hand, is it really under control? It's under some sort of control...their own. It's a feel-good experience. If drugs and alcohol are necessary for feel-good experiences, what are they hiding? What hurt or disappointment or insecurity is beneath it all?

Greater is He....like the students of Teen Challenge, they learn this lesson. Our church is doing a program called Celebrate Recovery. We've had people come off the streets because they saw the sign on our church grounds. I attend a prayer vigil on Thursday nights and we prayed for him because he was going to give his testimony of how Jesus delivered him from alcohol and drugs, how he relies on Him every day and how every morning he wakes up he's thankful because it means he's one day closer to being with Him.

These people are taken out of their dependency on something that will kill if left unneeded. Their dependency on Christ takes over and it is in Him (greater is He) that they are free from the burden of sin. The stains of our sin, whether great or small, are washed away to reveal His character which will reside in us...along with true righteousness.  All these things are possible in Christ. By His blood, by His stripes we are healed. Not just for those who obviously need it but for those whose pride says they don't.

Then we can say that greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. Greater are His plans for us than those we cling to in the world.

Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bread and Water

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.

I think it's ironic that awhile back people sent to prison were sometimes given only bread and water. Punishment for a crime committed. Certainly not the healthiest of meals; food that could lead to malnutrition, even death, among the other things one had to live in and through.

So isn't it ironic also that it is the Living Bread and Living Water, Jesus Christ, who today brings eternal life, who forgives all the sins of those who come to Him, who sets the captives free...sins past, present and future? And all we need do is call on Him, receive Him as our Lord and Savior.

Jesus used the miracle of the five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand men (not including women and children) and to again show them Who He was, to get them to believe. Food. Aren't we a people enamored with food? Aren't church socials all about food? Don't we get together with friends and visit and there's always food available? Even Bible study and Sunday school classes involve snacks and beverages. We love to eat. Eating in any society or time is a social event...it's part of fellowship. 

Jesus departed their company and crossed over the sea of Galilee. When the people had realized He was gone, they did the same, to seek Him out. They were, however, interested in more food rather than hearing what He had to say, although they did listen.

He admonished them not to work for the food (and drink) which perishes, which is what they were hoping He would again provide to satisfy their stomachs. He wanted them to understand that He was what they should be seeking, that they would believe in Him for eternal life. It went over their heads. He was supplying a very physical need, but they were missing the spiritual need they had. They asked what they could do in order to do what God wanted them to do! His answer was simple: Believe in Me.

They wanted more miracles so they might believe, yet here was the Miracle right in front of their eyes. They knew about their ancestors in the desert being fed manna. He told them in verse John 6:32 - Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  In other words, I am that bread. They asked to be given that bread (just like the Samaritan woman asked for that living water) and again they missed the point that if they would just believe in Him...the true Living Bread...come to Him and receive...and He would not turn anyone away who would receive.

So simple, yet sometimes we over complicate it. No works, just receiving Christ. Just believing on/in Him. I mentioned awhile back that the word "believe" is what trips us up. On October 12 I wrote: Believe on means to receive by faith, not by works, with the heart...in vitality and depth in our innermost being. It is believing "on" Jesus Christ. He becomes our foundation. It is "in" Him we abide and He abides in us. Faith brings the transformation, not anything we think we can do.  It's more than just knowing in our heads...and living our lives in the way we always have.  A transformation must take place. It's knowing in our spirits and turning our lives in a different direction, to follow wholeheartedly after Jesus. It's delighting in His Word, obeying and not purposely going against it.

Jesus's words were easy to understand but they were considered harsh because they went against the will of the people. Same is true today. There is no middle ground. It's black or white, evil or good...no room for compromise...a narrow road...with few on it.

If we find those words difficult, hard to swallow, and narrow minded, Jesus tells us, and He does not lie, Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. (John 6:47,51)

There will always be some who believe that their good works and being good people, will secure a place in heaven for them.  This is very similar to the response of the people above. We need to see beyond the physical works and look into the spiritual. Do not be deceived. The only works God accepts are those that He desires for us to do. It's done to glorify Him.

John 6:40 - For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.