Monday, January 30, 2012

Another Reminder!

Exodus 11:6-7 - Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again. But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the LORD does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.

Once again I pondered things in my heart. One day last week I wondered how, in the real day of trouble, God would protect His children. How would I know if I have enough knowledge and strength? Would I be found doubting?

As usual, I know the Lord was hearing my thoughts. He led me to think on some promises: He will never leave us or forsake us; He protects those who call Him their God; He is our provider. Oh, I know those promises...but HOW would I know when or how He would provide?

So the question came to mind, why do we doubt? The answer: because we are human. Another possible answer for some: because some of us have never undergone some of the difficulties others have. 

In the above scripture you can substitute Egypt with the world and Israel with God’s children. These events in Exodus were experienced and expressed that we might have an example of God’s faithfulness.

Well, since the time of my wondering, I have received three teachings to confirm that God will protect His children, those who call Him their LORD. Not that I didn't already know some of this! 

The first one came the morning after my questions. I was reading in Exodus (Chapters 11-15) about the departure of Israel out of Egypt, all done by the mighty hand of God. I won’t go into detail about the symbolism of how they escaped God’s wrath on Egypt. Read those  chapters if you want specifics. Just know this: It was by God’s command, and His Word, and the shed blood of an unblemished lamb that Israel, His people, His children, escaped the burden of slavery in Egypt and went on their way to their Promised Land, the land promised to His people by God. 

Jesus is our Word, the Word of God, He was the spotless Lamb of God who shed His blood that we would be taken out of the world and satan’s slavery, into our Promised Land in Heaven. The land promised to us if we choose to follow the Way that God has provided through Jesus Christ.

All that to say that God protected them. They saw miracle after miracle by His hand against Pharaoh and Egypt, but they were not affected by any of them! And amazingly, three days later they forgot and complained about not having water! What’s that all about?? They actually saw His miracles and were saved from their enemy’s hands! How could they? But this is where my doubts come in. I, we, have not experienced in our lives times, such things as recession, depression, hunger or need. We, for the most part, have had anything we ever wanted.

I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to say it...we are living in troubling times. Some may believe that we will bounce back from any calamity, but I believe we are experiencing what the Bible tells us is the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). We are seeing natural disasters more frequently, governments and nations teetering, morality at it’s low point only to get worse, if that’s possible. God is unhappy...

But God...has promised that He will watch over those He calls His children. We may not ever have an answer to the how He will provide, but we can know He will. This is where faith and trust come in. I believe we have not yet seen disaster like Israel experienced in Egypt. We’ve had our freedom in this nation. If that’s taken away...disaster might arise. 

Then in Sunday school we talked about being victorious in this world if we proclaim the name of Jesus, are sealed by His blood, know His Word and know what His promises are for us. As we were in prayer the words came to me: remember, your name means victorious! Yes, my name--Laurie--a derivative of laurel, means victory. And He first chose us to be victorious. We need to remember He first chooses us; what a privilege. God tells us we are victorious, triumphant, if we have chosen Christ, and become overcomers because of Him.

Then our sermon! More on provision and protection. God’s plans are to prosper us, take care of us even though the winds of change blow into our lives, Pastor Rory Grooters told us. Sometimes we don’t make the right choice and we walk out of the provision and protection, but sometimes it’s because someone else chooses to make the wrong choice and we are affected by it. But God...still provides in spite of anything that may happen in our lives to bring upset...if we call ourselves children of God.

God is always in control. If we truly believe that and we truly know that we are called His children, that is His promise to us. We need not be afraid, nor do we need doubt. If Jesus could walk on water, He can calm the storm in our lives--till the end of the age. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. There are reminders all throughout the Bible of His provision.

Pastor Rory also told us, in addition to God being in control, that we need to see things from a different perspective (God’s). He might be making the winds to blow in our lives to bring about a necessary change in order to bless someone else or to become blessed. And we should work and be busy despite what winds are blowing; use what we’ve got. These blowing winds should not be thought of as an obstacle but a detour before our destination. We should let God lift us up over the storms of life, let us soar on eagles’  wings (Exodus 19:4, Isaiah 40:31).

The Lord has shown me in no uncertain terms, a gentle reminder, that He is in control and because I am His child He will provide, protect and prosper me. It may not always be in ways I would like or even fully understand, but He will be there for me. 

Should the days ahead become ominous, I hope you take this to heart, perhaps remember it. He will protect if you first choose the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and determine to trust in Him, let Him be your strength. He will deliver us. 

Psalm 37:3-4, 39-40 - Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. ...He is [your] strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help [us] and deliver [us]; He shall deliver [us] from the wicked, and save [us], because [we] trust in Him.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The One Jesus Loves

John 13:23 - Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.

We discussed John 13 the other week in Bible study. This chapter shows us how Jesus was a servant to all. It discussed the washing of feet, a custom in those days. It was done for any guest in any home. Usually a servant would be the one to do the work. 

However, at Passover, Jesus' last supper, there was no servant available and when none of the disciples stepped up to the plate (pride or did they just not think of it?), Jesus removed his outer clothes and did it Himself. 

There was a hub bub when Peter said he would not allow Jesus to wash him because he did not think it was right. He was His servant. But Jesus insisted. He did this as an example for two reasons: He may be the King of kings and Lord of lords, God come down from heaven, the highly exalted One, Messiah, but He was also a humble Servant. He came down from His throne in heaven to live among us just so He could die for all of us. We are not to think more highly of ourselves, always placing others ahead of ourselves and love on them. 

The then disciple John called himself the one whom Jesus loved five times in the Book of John. The question was asked if we thought he was being arrogant. It could seem as though he were. As children of God (and Jesus called these disciples His children in verse 33), we should unabashedly say the same thing! I think John just had a much deeper understanding of who Jesus was than the rest of the group. He hung on His every word. He worshiped Him in a way the others might not have.

We are all the ones whom Jesus loves if we have submitted our lives to Him. Foot washing was a dirty, humbling job, cleaning a very dirty part of the body. How many really like the idea of someone else washing our feet!? Maybe it's a girl thing but the general consensus for 12 women that morning was a scrunching up noses! Eeeewwww. 

Maybe that's what Peter felt. No, Lord, you will not wash my feet. That's beneath you and I'm not worthy of it. Oh, but we are worthy if Jesus, who first chose us, wishes to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. He's the One who made it possible for all the filthiness of our sad lives to be washed away. 

What we must remember is if Jesus was willing to love us so unconditionally, we should do the same for others. Remove the planks from our eyes and humble ourselves to accept others for who they are. Love on them. Forgive their weaknesses. Don't think more highly of ourselves. Be servants to all (a lesson for me!). There is a phrase often used. It's not biblical but it is part of a truth: Jesus loves us just the way we are. It doesn't stop there, though. He might love us just as we are, but He loves us too much to allow us to stay in that place. He changes us. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Reminds me of this verse from a hymn called Man of Sorrows. We are born into sin, unrighteousness, filthy and He came to wash away the sin and guilt by His precious blood:
      Guilty, vile, and helpless we; 
      Spotless Lamb of God was He; 
      "Full atonement!" can it be? 
      Hallelujah! What a Savior! 

There are people who cannot receive Christ because they believe He could never love them as they Peter. That's just not true. He loves us all so much. But there's a condition. Living apart from Him, not knowing or receiving Him...doesn't take His love away...but it saddens Him that there are those who are too ashamed, too proud, too much in control of their own lives, to look up to Him.

Remember, we are all the ones whom Jesus loves if we have received Christ. Let us lean on His bosom. Let us let Him cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Only He is able and He's not too proud to come and wash your feet, so to speak.

...but God show His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us...therefore...It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 5:8, Galatians 5:20, Romans 8:37)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good Word

Matthew 28:19-20 - Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.

As Christians we are all called to evangelism, as Jesus commanded above. If we do not evangelize, we are not obedient to God's Word. Ouch. Does that strike a bit of conviction or anger? Do we ask, who me? Do we say adamantly, we are not taught this in our church? Or do we proclaim our own version of doing the right thing by saying I do plenty for the church.

The end of John 13 talks about a new commandment...that we love one another as Jesus has loved us and that we share this love with others so that all will know we are His disciples. A new command: love...and disciple others. That commandment addresses the issue of loving others and sharin Jesus so that they will also receive the blessing and salvation that only He provides.

But I don't like doing that. As Christians we are all called to do so. As the days grow more difficult our world will be in greater need of a hope that is bigger than any one man or any government or world power.

Sunday at the Superstition Foothills Baptist Church, Pastor Nathan Heller, new to the congregation, spoke a powerful word about evangelism.

If we truly walk with the Lord we should have no fear of death. Jesus is by our side. He has gone on ahead of us about 2,000 years ago to prepare a place for those who call Him their Savior. There's the point: we must go through Him. No other man, no other thing will get us there.

Pastor Nathan brought up the true story of a family in Tucson who called him to speak with their ailing father. They could not break through to him. He had not given His life to Jesus. Could he help? When he spoke with the man he rattled off all the different churches he had attended, all the money he had given them, how he worked in various ways for these churches...and when he got to heaven he would tell God all about what he did.

Pastor Nathan said he was so wrapped up in what he'd done he could not hear him speak. He wouldn't listen. Without first giving our lives to Christ, there is no hope for heaven.

In John 14 Thomas listened as Jesus talked about His leaving and preparing a place for them. Jesus told them that where He would be, there they would also be...and where He would go they knew and they knew the way. Thomas voiced what could very well have been the unspoken thoughts of the others: we do not know where You are going and how can we know the way? Remember, Thomas doubted again later when he needed to touch Jesus' scarred hands. Aren't there times we all doubt? We doubt even the Word of God and its commands.

Jesus said to him: I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (verse 6). He is the only way to heaven. He...not things. We are to lift our eyes up and seek God for the answers. He will hear and respond to a heart that is sincere. The time to do that is now before we have to answer to God. Better to be on our faces before Him now than to fall before Him later when we think we will be able to justify our lives to Him.

Whenever Jesus said "I am" He proclaimed He was God. I am the way, the truth and the life...No religion, no church, no human...nothing, but through Him. Let that sink in. It's the absolute truth. The only truth relying on. All other things, works, church beliefs are nothing. Only Jesus is the way. And we must seek Him, invite Him into our lives, trust in Him for all things. It's all about Him.

Awhile later the son called Pastor again and requested he try once more and again the old man rattled off all the things he had done. And a third time he was called to meet with him; the doctors said he would not last the night; they would give him a shot to control his pain but there was very little chance he would awaken. Pastor Nathan met with him again. He told him it was time to ask Jesus to become his Savior. The man's answer was: When I awake we'll discuss it. End of story.

The time is now. We do not know what tomorrow holds. We do not even know what this day and night hold. I know that I called on the name of the Lord and was saved. I know that there is a lost and dying world at our doorsteps. I know that there are many who don't hold to the truth of accepting Jesus by faith only. I know there are many who think they'll never be good enough. Well guess what, none of us, no matter how good we think we are, are good enough. No matter how we believe our church is the right's about a one on One relationship with Christ and that's it! It's about giving up all we think is right and good and humbling ourselves before an all powerful God and giving of ourselves to only Him.

It is our responsibility as Romans 10:14 tells us: How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? We have a responsibility as Christ followers to let people know. Plant seeds that can be watered and that God can nurture and grow. Am I planting any seeds here?!

Romans 10:13 (Joel 2:32) - For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

Monday, January 23, 2012


Psalm 121:1-2, 123:1, 113:4-5&7 - I will lift up my eyes to the hills--from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens. The LORD is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God, who dwells on high...He raises the poor out of the dust and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with princes...

Lord, I thank you for this day. I thank You for my eyes that are lifted up to gaze on You this day. I'm thankful You raised me up from the death of this world and brought me new life. I lift my hands, my voice, my praise to You.

You are Creator God. You are the Word made flesh. 

You are seated in heavenly places on Your throne. You reign on high. All the heavens declare Your glory. One day You will return from above. You are exalted among the heavens. 

We are told to look up and we will be saved. When we worship You our hands are raised. Our hearts soar in Your presence. We will soar on eagles' wings because we have put our trust and fait h in You.

It's all about "up." Looking up. It's all about You, God of the heavens.

Look up. See that our redemption draws near. You lift us up out of our sinful lives to restore us. You take us up out of the pits of despair. The way of (worldly) success is moving up on our own. Spiritual success is looking up to the One who has a plan for each of our lives. 

Praises and prayers are lifted up to You. You hear from on high. 

When we are feeling good we claim we are in an up mood. Only You, Lord, can give us eternal peace, comfort, hope and joy. You lift us up. 

Lord, this is Your day. Let our praises to You be lifted up as we worship and praise You for this day...the day You have made. The day that rises before us.

My hands are lifted high and my voice shouts praises to the King who is high and lifted up, seated on His throne in Heaven. What an awesome God we serve! My spirit is filled with joy this morning. Joy that only comes from above.

I praise You and thank You, O God.

Matthew 17:7-8 - ...Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid." When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Awakening of a New Day

Job 12:10, Deuteronomy 10:14 - In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it. 

I sat this morning in the darkened Arizona living room. I was talking to the Lord when I noticed the darkness outside begin to awaken. Pink clouds slowly wafting over the mountains, turning ever more brilliant as the sun rose higher. The southeastern sky started by glowing orange and yellow and melting into the blue sky. The light cast mellow yellow colors on the houses and vegetation. 

I thanked God for yet another day, the new day He was creating right before my eyes. My heart swelled with excitement. Here I was watching God create. Here I was in His presence watching Him at work. And my heart felt like it would burst. I'd never thought of Him creating right there before me. His quiet voice speaking, as it were, in what I was seeing. 

I often reflect on His nature, His character seen in nature. I guess that's because I'm a visual person. I love colors and textures. It's probably why I like taking pictures. But nothing quite captures the true essence than seeing it before your eyes. 

I wondered if this was how a heart in love with God would feel. I sometimes wonder how much I really love Him. Is there any way we can fully know? What's enough? Is my love as strong as someone else's? I know it has to be different for each person. If all I have to go on is that feeling....and yet we're told it's not about our feelings. 

But, Lord, I'm a feeling kind of person. You created me this way. You created everyone with emotions. My emotions are showing right now! My heart is aching in a very good way. Isn't that how loves feels? A feeling of bursting forth what? Song? Laughter? Words? Or even not so quiet internal reflection and awe? 

And I gloried at the thought of being able to see His hand at work right before my eyes. We catch glimpses of Him, those whose eyes are stayed on Him, those whose minds are always looking for Him in all areas of our daily lives. When we are able to praise God for His creation and worship Him for it, aren't we proclaiming our love for Him? When our hearts feel as though they will burst at the beauty of it all, aren't we are loving Him for what His great hands have done? Praise the Lord!

Where is God today in your life? Is He in the crisp bitter cold the Midwest is experiencing today? Is He reminding you that He has created even that, as much as we would prefer sunny summer days? I can't go anywhere without seeing Him at work. Maybe that's why I like to travel, to see ALL He has created, the difference from one part of the world to the next. 

What do you see when you look at a sunrise or sunset? When steam from off cold Lake Michigan looks like snow capped Wisconsin? When the Arizona mountain tops turn orange in the early morning sun or bronze in the late afternoon as the sun sets? When the clouds paint pictures of angels or fuzzy fish with mouths wide open to catch the prey in front of them? When the Caribbean ocean is a rich, deep blue? 

It doesn't even need to be in faraway places but right outside your back door. Watch the birds happily hopping around for seed or swooping down on a feeder. Watch and listen to the next thunderstorm. Watch a flower day by day growing from a small seed to a full bloom. Study it's growth. How amazing are even these daily occurrences. Look at the snowflakes or frost on your windows. Take a closer look. See the fingerprints of our Creator on them?

Our Creator is amazing. The world and His nature...yes, it's His...both physically and spiritually...never two days exactly the same. An infinite number of days, an infinite number of scenes. It may seem the same day after day but each day is unique. Take a closer look. Remove yourself for a moment from the daily activities and notice Him. 

Lord, help us to see Your hand at work in our lives each day. Let us not grow bored in seeing this magnificent hand doing what it does best. This IS the day You have MADE. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it. My day and my days are in Your hand. Let this day be a confirmation for all of a God at work. 

Look for Him while He may still be seen. Look for His hand at work outside the physical windows where you sit right now and also the windows of your soul. He calls you to see Him, to recognize Him, to know Him. He will amaze you.

Genesis 1 - God said...God created...and it was good.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Way of Escape

1Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
I attended a Bible study last week. It was with a group of women of various denominations all seeking God in their lives. That in itself is wonderful! Most are looking for some guidance on how to do it, how to read their Bible, how to hear from the Lord. My prayer is they don't give up seeking and that they seek the truth of His Word.

There was a comment made that God never gives us more than we can handle. This was said in response to one woman sharing about a friend's (I'm assuming teenage) son who committed suicide. The explanation one of the women gave was that she believed God knew this boy would not be able to handle life's challenges and allowed him to do this. A huge catch came into my spirit. I had to respond. I did not have adequate answers and time to do that then and there, but I did take the time to respond in writing. All that kept going through my mind was, this is not true. God would not do that.

We were all in agreement that God does not cause problems in our lives, but allows them to happen. However, God will not take us out of a situation by means of death because He knows we cannot or will not be able to handle life's situations. Taking a life whether it be our own or someone else's is a sin in God's eyes. 

An NIV study Bible I have says this in response to the scripture: The Holy Spirit explicitly affirms that God provides His children with adequate grace to overcome every temptation...He will not allow us to be tempted above that which we can bear, and He will with each temptation provide a way by which we can endure the temptation. We can bear every temptation and find a way out if we sincerely desire to and if we depend on God's power and faithfulness. So it boils down to temptation....and we have the choice whether to fall into it or not. Temptation is not a sin, but giving in to it is. 

Jesus loves us so much! He does not want anyone to perish but to have everlasting life. This is His nature. God created human beings in His image and each of us carries within us the potential to overcome the evil in this world. He wants us to rule and reign with Him. It breaks His heart to see us harm ourselves because it is the devil who comes to steal, kill and destroy. It is the enemy who brings temptation into our lives. It is up to us, however, to choose right or wrong. God does not force us to do one or the other. He has given us free will.

I did other research to make sure I was not missing something or missing the point. Here is a quote from an Oswald Chambers devotion book I have: A man’s disposition on the inside, i.e., what he possesses in his personality, determines what he is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of the nature. 

Later Chambers finished with this: Temptation is not something we may escape, it is essential to the full-orbed life of a man. Beware lest you think you are tempted as no one else is tempted; what you go through is the common inheritance of the race, not something no one ever went through before. God does not save us from temptations; He helps us in the midst of them (Hebrews 2:18).

I don't remember anything being said about what caused this boy to choose to take his life. There were things said or the sort of life he lived that could have planted the seed. What's important to realize is that God does not take us out of this world to avoid the difficulties life brings us or temptation. It came with the territory back when Adam and Eve ate of the apple...and we are all subject to it. God asks us to go through the troubles with His help. He is more than able to provide that plan of escape if we desire His help. It's all about Him!

These women are seeking God. I pray they seek until they find. I pray that the truth of His Word is revealed to them, as difficult as it might seem at times. Sometimes we want to justify what we do or what someone else does and search for a comfortable scripture to ease that burden…to the point where we take it out of context and the meaning gets lost. 

We all want to believe we are basically good people. The fact is, we are ALL sinners in need of a Savior and Jesus is that Man. He is our hope if we seek Him and learn about Him and His ways of truth. He is the Truth, the Way and the Life. The words written in His Word are true...and just...and sometimes hard to listen to. Sometimes the meaning of the words can be difficult to comprehend too. But if we seek Jesus and ask Him to reveal His Word to us, He will. He will help us when we are tempted and He will deliver us out of that temptation.

Matthew 6:13 - And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

But Now I See

Isaiah 42:7 - open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

I was reading an article about paradigm shifts, those "ah-ha" moments, epiphanies, or going from blindness to sight. For the entire excellent article read it here.

Everyone has had them. A paradigm shift  is a moment when something suddenly makes total sense or what appears to be a new thought, new truth, becomes oh, so clear. As the writer pointed out its when the light bulb goes on in your head. Like you see something for the first time.

I've always considered myself a slow learner. In a new job I might have to be told several times how a certain aspect of my responsibility worked. Then one day, Oh, now I get it, now I see, and from then on everything fell neatly into place. 

The most gratifying, freeing and exciting eye-opening experience for me came several years ago. The words to the song Amazing Grace became so crystal clear where previously it was just a beautiful song that evoked a tear because of its beautiful melody. What I viewed as wrong was now so right. What I so struggled against was now something to embrace. My arrogance turned into humility and it was not difficult at all. Truth was revealed and it was the most amazing truth.

This experience is the in-your-face meeting with Jesus Christ. When He becomes more than just Someone you've read or heard about, but becomes alive in your spirit, you've just had that epiphany. What was impossible to understand and often rejected now made me reel with understanding. Jesus lives in me; He's alive; I hear His voice; He will never leave me or forsake me. I still shake my head sometimes to think He loved a sinner such as I.

Jesus wants me to be in a close and personal relationship with Him, the living God. He wants me! What is so amazing, besides the grace He offers, is how the Bible then becomes as alive as our Lord. The Bible is alive...because it is the inerrant Word of God and the very Jesus Christ about whom it is written. Jesus is the Word. In the beginning was the Word...(John 1:1).

Ah ha! In the beginning...even before time began...Jesus existed. He wasn't just with God, He was God. Still is. His resurrection proves that He still exists. He's still alive, as is His written Word. And in His Word He tells us He wants us to be in relationship with Him. How? Romans 10:9 tells us: 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. Wrap your heads around this. What a paradigm shift it can become.

This understanding is there for anyone. That feel-good, heart thumping moment is obtainable. But don’t get me wrong, it's so much more than a feeling. It's far greater than any other experience one can have because it is the most important experience one can obtain. That true, intimate relationship with the One who died for you, the One who brings you true life in His name, the One who so wants intimacy with you. He is the One who holds the key to heaven for you, who's waiting for your acceptance of Him. The One who ...has made everything beautiful in its time...and has put eternity in our hearts... (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That means even when we are not aware of what that nagging feeling that something is missing in our lives, that unsatisfied feeling that will not go away, is, He is calling us into a knowing of Him, a relationship so deep.

I cannot do anymore than tell you how to experience this. It comes from earnestly seeking Him and asking for that "ah-ha" Jesus moment to invade your heart, mind and spirit. He will know the intent of your heart and if that intent is honest, He will reveal Himself like never before.  Be open to hear that still small voice that tells you .. Isaiah 30:21

Isaiah 42:16 - I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Function of the Church

Matthew 16:18 - And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Oh my, last Sunday so spoke to my spirit! What I shared Friday about Thursday was somehow connected to Sunday school and our sermon. Amazing. Will I ever grow tired of how the Lord works and how He speaks? I hope not. When it becomes an even more regular occurrence, I pray I never lose the amazement I feel.

Sunday school brought the questions: What is the Church and what is its function? Jesus began the Church. He IS the head of it, always has been. His function while on earth was to show Himself and teach His followers. They in turn were to go out to share what they had learned with others. So the snowball effect takes place.

The Church isn't what it should be. It has lost its function in many cases. The Church is not a building but a people. The Church is Jesus' assembly. The Church is here to help us with our mission; we don't go to church to help with its mission. We are not to go to church to always be fed but we are to go to church to help feed. The Church’s mission is to teach us, like Jesus, that we might be prepared and encouraged to go out into our own mission field. We are not to assume that we come to help the Church with its mission to seek and save the lost. We ARE the Church and are commanded to go out, be disciples, to bring in the lost souls that they might be prepared to go out.

And the sermon? It was on fasting and prayer as we have been doing this week. We worshiped to songs that spoke on being in the presence of God and what we find when we are there: peace, rest and wholeness...and that these can help us in our mission. Being in His presence always works to our advantage as we go out.

Fasting and prayer should be a time of personal meditation. It can be a preparation of our hearts. It should be a time of seeking the Lord not just for the church, or the Church, or any other thing that seems important to us, but for ourselves. Looking for God's guidance for our lives. It's spending time in His presence and listening for His voice. 

Remember what Thursday night for me was all about? Being prepared and now it's time to act. Step into my mission field, whatever that may be, whatever the Lord chooses for me to do. Mission fields. Abide in Him. And if we are in His presence and only act when He tells us to, there should only be peace. His power is in us. And then I thought, if that's true we shouldn't have to ask for power! He gives it to us abundantly...just act in it. He has given us all we need; we only need to hear Him telling us when to act, to be that arm, hand, voice, heart, leg of God extended to someone else, those things that have been prepared if the Church has done its proper job. 

Jesus is the foundation, the solid rock on which we stand. He is the head of the Church. We can do nothing without Him.

John 15:5 - I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Consuming Fire

Genesis 15:17 - And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.

God made a covenant with Abram (before he became Abraham). That covenant is extended to us. With Abram the covenant was made with various animals and fowl. They were cut in two pieces and divided. While Abram was in a deep sleep God came as the smoking oven and consuming fire that passed through the pieces and a covenant was made that the land Abram had been given would be his, for he and his descendants.

For whatever seemingly totally unrelated reason, I jumped to Deuteronomy 9. and there at the top of the page were these words: The LORD a Consuming Fire! Israel was enslaved in Egypt at this time. Moses was speaking to the people, telling them they were to cross over the Jordan River that day. They were going to defeat their enemies and (re)possess the land that was rightfully theirs through the promise to Abram. These enemies were greater in strength and number but with the LORD behind them they would succeed because He would be a consuming fire. 

God can be a consuming fire in our lives too, if we allow Him. We have a choice to make. Do we want to possess the land God has promised us or do we not? The land spoken of above was physical. Our Promised Land is Heaven. The only way to receive that land is to come into relationship with Christ. Through Jesus we become the descendants of which it was written. We may not be Jewish, but as followers we are grafted into God’s family. We have been adopted (Ephesians 1:5 - having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will...)

Israel was told not to think that it was they who succeeded on their own. It was the LORD who would destroy their enemies. They were also very pointedly told it was not because of their righteousness or uprightness of their hearts, but only His righteousness. Oh, people understand this! Israel was helpless without God. They were disobedient in His eyes, a stiff-necked people. So we can be.

We cannot think we will just die and go to heaven because we believe we're good, that we have righteousness on our own. No, just as Israel was helpless without the LORD, we are helpless without Jesus. We receive righteousness when we receive Christ. When we receive Christ God becomes the consuming fire within us to make us more in the image He requires. His Spirit is the refiner spoken of in the Word; He purifies us as gold and silver; we are tested by fire through situations in our lives.

Deuteronomy 9:7 says "Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness..."  We are all in a worldly wilderness before receiving Christ. We provoke God. But...He made a way for us. But we must make a decision to choose this day whom we will serve, man or God. We have to be willing to be part of the covenant offered to us. That decision is made through Jesus. He is that covenant...the new covenant. 1Corinthians 11:25 - In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood..." 

The Kingdom of Heaven is ours when we accept the terms of this Covenant. God the Father becomes a consuming fire against the rest of the world, against the god of this world, for us. This all so exciting. His plan for us is to live for Him, obey Him and worship Him. When we do the Kingdom of Heaven, our Promised Land, the land that the LORD our God gave to our ancestors so long ago is ours also. Do you see the similarity? 

There will be a day when God as our consuming fire will descend upon this world again and destroy wickedness and only if we have been redeemed by Jesus Christ will we overcome, being righteous only through Him. We will be safe from the coming storm. As Moses interceded to God for rebellious Israel, Jesus intercedes for us to the Father. We cannot possess the Kingdom of Heaven based on our good works but only by our receiving Christ and His greatness and righteousness.

I’m thankful for a Savior who becomes a personal consuming fire to work righteousness in and through me. 

Deuteronomy 9:6 - Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

What DO We Believe?

Ephesians 3:20 - Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us...

I was reading Genesis 15:5 where God was telling Abram that his descendants would be greater than the number of stars he saw in the sky. But Abram was an old man and his wife Sarai was no longer able to conceive. But God... There are countless stories of seemingly impossible situations throughout the Bible where people questioned God's promises, His power to act on what He said He would do. Sometimes they believed immediately, sometimes they went ahead of God because He didn't act quickly enough for them.

It is so important to realize that when God speaks and gives us a personal promise, He will fulfill His time. It doesn't even have to be personal. There are so many promises in the Bible for each of us if we call ourselves children of God. But we need to understand it’s in His time, not ours. But I also think we can miss the actual timing if we are not paying attention. If He says now is the time, it's time!

We have not because we ask not (James 4:2). How much faith do we put into that statement? Just what do we believe God can do for us or anyone else?

This is a question born out of a statement made last night at prayer. It's time for all of us to believe that there truly is NOTHING, absolutely nothing, God can't do for those who call Him their God if we seek His face and believe that what we ask, according to His will, He will do (1John 5:14).

We had started out in our own separate times of prayer before coming together to pray together. One of the women at prayer read something the Lord had spoken to her. The gist of it was, biblically, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13) and faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

When she read what she had heard in her spirit, I had to share how it touched me because it confirmed what I had heard in my own spirit that night.

There is nothing you can't do when you abide in Me and heed My voice. Nothing. Do you understand that? Nothing! Do not fear. When you hear Me, without fear act on My words. You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. You have not because you ask not. You see not because you do not. I need you to act out. You sit quietly behind the scenes. Take that leap or even a step of faith. It's time. It's time. It's your time to bloom. Do not fear. I am with you. Do not fear rejection. It is not against you even if it appears so. It is Me and My power, My strength, My love, My healing that they reject because it is an unknown territory. It is familiar to you, though. Act out. Speak. Fear not. I am with you.

When I shared, others admitted they held back at times as well. What is this all about!? Where's our faith that God can do what He says He can? We hold back because we are fearful of what others will think. It's not about us. It's all about Him. If we hold back it is our own type of rejection of the Almighty God, the One who holds our lives in His hand, the One who has promised us His power.

We call ourselves children of God yet we still hold back sometimes. God came to me at a dark time in my life. He opened my eyes that I might see His glorious light. I will be forever grateful for that time. It wasn't the first time He'd tried to reach me, though. I just wasn't ready. We need to look for and be willing to respond to opportunities to be that same light in a dark world, even if we don't reach them. We still need to show others there is a hope, that there really is a Light named Jesus at the end of the tunnel of life.

As I drove home or when I lie in bed, I don't remember which, thoughts of how I could do this starting today raced through my head. I was stopped dead in my tracks! I was racing ahead to do something that may not be God's will. I need to wait until He says, "Now!" I need to just be open to hearing and available to do at His time because then the results are perfect, to start out the day asking, Lord, what would you have me do today?

When we receive Christ into our lives and are filled with His Holy Spirit, we have everything we need. We have His strength, His wisdom, His power, even His healing touch if we truly believe, if we truly allow Him to work in our lives. We just don't know how much we have. To find out we must act. It's the good works He has called us to do.

I cannot be satisfied where I am. I must move on. I must believe with all my heart that God really has given me everything I could ever need and not be fearful of acting on what I believe He has asked me to do or say. If His Spirit exists within me (and I know it does), He will be behind me. Will I fail sometimes? Yes, because I have attempted in my own strength. Will I find opposition or rejection? Yes. Do I stop? No. I must press on like the Apostle Paul was determined to do. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). All that should matter is the final outcome in life of a job well done to glorify God.

Jesus sits before the Father. He hears our prayers. He instructs. He directs. We can do all things, as He tells us in the scripture below. We must believe this. Our world is filled with even skeptical Christians. If Jesus promised this to us, we can believe it! There is a general consensus that God is developing us now because it’s time to start acting on what we believe. We must be about our Father’s business (Luke 4:29). All things are possible for those in Christ Jesus.

John 14:12 - Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

All Things Are New

Revelation 21:5 - Then He who sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me, Write, for these words are true.

There's always a sense of encouragement, excitement and hope when a new year begins. As I awoke this morning to a chorus of "happy new year" by the nearby roosters in Puerto Rico, I thanked God for a new year. I thanked Him for an encouraging word for our church and for those who call our church their home. 

Christmas celebrations are over and in the wake of those festivities we have new things to put on or put away. I was told that at the candlelight service an offer to receive Christ touched the hearts of about ten people. Their lives were made new as well. Hopefully this new year they will choose to put on and not put away their new life in Christ.

There have been claims that December 21, 2012 could be the end of the world if the Mayan calendar is correct. There is an eerie similarity between the meaning of the word apocalypse and something we read when Jesus dies on the cross. An apocalypse is a lifting of the veil or revelation! When Jesus died the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The veil had been lifted giving man access once again to God, through the death of His Son, Jesus. 

It sounds more like a beginning to me. Some scientists believe the world won't end but instead it will take a different course...a new one, a new course filled with peace, wisdom, love and understanding. Isn't that what Jesus has been trying to say for more than 2,000 years? 

Put on the new man and a new life, in Him. Don't put it away. It would be the greatest and most satisfying new life one could ever hope for. And each new day is filled with the same hope. A hope that never changes because if our hope is in Jesus, we have hope in One who never changes!

We will go through some difficult days ahead. Jesus will return. Those who are in Christ know this. We have peace already in a world of turmoil. We have our hope too, that He will return for those whom He calls His own. The world will not end but it will change in a twinkling of an eye and the loud sound of a trumpet.

For those who cling to Him now, who have found their new life, this will be a glorious day. We understand what today's life events are leading up to. We already have the peace, wisdom, understanding and love. 

Jesus does make all things new. It's a new year. Start the new year out with a new life in Christ. Receive Him and have the hope, the revelation, of this life in Him. Let this truly be a Happy New Year!

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!