Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Would You Do?

Daniel 3:4-6 - Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall  be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”

This is  in the time of Daniel. The Book of Daniel is prophetic. It shows us what happened in the past will happen in the future for some. It is a warning...and a blessing for those who heed the warning.

Look at the world around us. There are idols everywhere. Sports, entertainment, games, occupations, automobiles, power, politicians, food, alcohol, drugs. Anything that consumes our minds. Anything we spend too much time involved in. Anything that takes our minds off the better things, like God.

Moderation. Balance. These are words that should be associated with our lives. Not obsession...or possession.

If you recall, while Moses was up on a mountaintop with God being given the commandments, the people below were sure something had happened to him. Thinking he would not return Aaron directed them to pool their jewelry and precious gold to build a golden calf image so they could worship. They would bow before it. To this day I can't understand how worshiping the image of an animal would be like worshiping God. It doesn't compute. It is a great lie and these Israelites fell for it.

But isn't that what we do when instead of taking those few minutes of spare time and conversing with God? When the noise of life distracts us.

What has this to do with Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation above? The rest of the story is revealed shortly after. Daniel's three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, Jews who worshiped God, we're noticed not bowing when all others had. Their allegiance was to One they claimed greater than a manmade god. It was brought to the king's attention and the consequences of their actions adhered to.

The king called them before him and gave them another opportunity to bow before his god. He made sure they realized what the consequences would be asking them, with a sneer no doubt, which of his gods would be able to rescue them from the fiery furnace. They stood their ground and said that their God, if He chose, would deliver them. If not they still would not bow to his.

This clearly angered the king and as he had proclaimed, these three young men were thrown into the center of burning of fiery furnace, one that was made hotter than normal. Three other men were ordered to take them. As they threw the three young men in, the fire consumed their guards, yet Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were not. However, now they bowed down.

Nebuchadnezzar was amazed when he saw four men in the fire, none of whom were consumed. He exclaimed: “Look!” ...  “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (Daniel 3:25)  Like the Son of God. Isn't this the Old Testament? Didn't the Son of God appear in the New Testament? Oh, that's right, this is prophetic! This Son of God was His holy angel.

There was a catch in my spirit when I wrote the 4th person seen was an angel. If this is a prophetic book, this was not an angel but a picture of Jesus, of He Who is with us in our greatest times of need if we bow before Him. Later in our Bible study on Daniel-admittedly I did not do my homework, only read Daniel 3 then wrote the blog-the fourth person as Jesus was mentioned and I recalled the catch in my spirit, which I failed to listen to. There you have it!

These three men came out of the fire without singed clothing or hair, not even the stench of smoke. They had been saved and delivered. That's what my God does.

We are all called to bow to one God alone. What does bowing and giving our lives to Jesus do? It saves us. It saves us from an eternal death...in hell. What are we told about those who will not bow? They are thrown into the pit of hell where the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:11). The fire never ceases. The beast is one satan who deceives us daily into believing our idols are good.

Needless to say, Nebuchadnezzar became a believer after that. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! ...there is no other God who can deliver like this (Daniel 3:28-29). Blessed be our God for what He has done for us.

We can be comfortable in our conveniences and distractions. Life is Good, as a motto states. What will it take for others to recognize this God I speak of? What disaster of life... illness, addiction, idol, loss, hurt or abandonment...will cause one to think twice about what consumes us? What will it take to cause one to no longer bow before an idol of their own making and bow before the King of kings, Lord of lords, whose promises are sure and whose forgiveness is amazing. Our God is greater and more costly than the "gold" of our idols.

The law of the Lord is perfect...the testimony of the Lord is sure...the statutes of the Lord are right...the commandment of the Lord is pure...the fear of the Lord is clean...the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb...and  in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:7-11)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I've Got You Covered

Genesis 3:21 - Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. 

Last Sunday Bob and Audrey Meisner spoke at our church. Their story of betrayal, anger, forgiveness and reconciliation impacted many, as I've learned by the talk among several within our church this week, not necessarily for the same reason as revealed in their story. Somehow it reached deep into our souls to our own story, whatever it might be. I am still thinking about it; it has had a profound effect on me. To that I praise God because there is something going on. I love that He loves enough to do that.

Audrey had betrayed her husband by succumbing to the advances of a younger, attentive man staying in their home. It was short lived because she knew she had made a huge mistake, this just wasn't her. The dilemma facing her was enormous. She had to tell Bob...and he had to respond. To make matters worse, they found out she was pregnant and knew it wasn't Bob's. They told us it was no easy road to reconciling their marriage. But I won't go into that. Just trust that it was all about God's work in both lives.

One other thing, however, that spoke volumes and culminated in tears was Bob's explanation of a covering. There are many references to coverings in the Bible and many point to Jesus.

As I see it, the first covering between God and man mentioned was after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. Remember they had sinned and they saw themselves naked and were ashamed and they covered themselves with fig leaves. But God took it one step further and clothed them with what was the first blood sacrifice...skins to cover their nakedness. He covered them from their sin and shame.

The next covering was part of the first tabernacle in the Old Testament. God was directing Moses in this project. Israel was being led out of captivity, in the desert. A tabernacle was a portable tent where worship of God took place. You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that (Exodus 26:14).  The Old Testament was a sign of what was to come and the covering in this tabernacle...the Lord Jesus Christ.

The covering of rams skins dyed red. The word cover is defined as to cover, conceal, hide, and a root word meaning to become sated. Whew. This is a picture of Jesus as our covering. When we are covered by the blood of Jesus, our Sacrifice, our sins removed, we are now clothed in His righteousness, He hides us in the cleft of His rock, within the palm of His hand, within He Who is the Tower we run into to be saved. We have entered into His ark, like Noah and his family. We are hidden by the power of an Almighty God.

Oh, that we would understand this more fully. And about becoming sated: I see this as having the fullness of Christ in our lives. He has forgiven all of our sins. It's all about Him! What He has done for all people and what we can have if we want it bad enough.

More on the covering...more personal. This may be another controversial subject!! It will fly in the face of feminism for sure. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head... Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord (1Corinthians 11:3,9-11). In the Lord...He is our covering. This is not suggesting that women are inferior to men. Scripture clearly states we are not independent of each other. But man is to be covered by God, a woman covered by her husband, in the Lord. Both under God's covering of protection, wisdom, love.

Here are more references to covering, being covered, to cover: 
My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and You cover my iniquity. (Job 14:17)
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered...(Romans 4:7)
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins. (Proverbs 10:12)
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13)
He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. (Psalm 91:4)

Jesus paid the price for all mankind. When we know this Jesus, His love and forgiveness covers our sins and He covers us to protect us. We are told that before we were even formed He knew us...He formed us and covered us in the womb...then He tries to make it known to us of He Who forgives and He beckons us even today that we might be covered by Him. This is incredible.

As Bob explained to his children when it came time to tell them about what had happened, he took the comforter off their bed and put it over Audrey's head and body. He wrapped his arm around her. He said to his children: this is what God does to us when we make a mistake. He comes to us and covers us, He wraps His arms around us and says I will never leave you or forsake you. Bob not only had forgiven his wife of her transgression, but he received that child as though it were his own, unconditionally. He humbled himself; he was Christ-like in his actions. He was encouraging his family that He would not leave her. He claimed his son as a Divine gift, not an accident but born out of the very heart of God, despite the way.

This earth is covered in darkness and sin but as long as we have received Christ as our Savior, He is our covering, we need not fear in this life because we know that He will never leave us, we are here in this life temporarily, and that upon death we are in heaven with He Who has covered us. We also need to take the love God has offered to is and do the same. Reconciliation, forgiveness and love. Bob's example should also be ours.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness... For You, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods. (Isaiah 61:10, Psalm 97:9)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Against the Grain

Romans 12:2 - And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I know this subject has been discussed elsewhere. How can it not? Jesus was controversial in His day and when one chooses to follow Him he/she also becomes controversial. He goes against the grain of world thinking. And it can appear to be judgmental. It is not my desire to be judgmental but only to speak that which is against the grain, the truth of God's Word. When we understand His Word we have His knowledge and wisdom.

I have a very, very old t-shirt that references the scripture above. It shows a stream of fish swimming one direction with just one going the opposite way. It says in small print: Go against the flow. One among many, a narrow road, not many who follow it...going against the flow.

I was going in one direction (ahem) with this and veered off in another! My original thoughts were how God asks us to do the opposite of what the world thinks is right. Where did that all begin? Answer: in the Garden. Here's a hard word: the majority of people don't follow God or don't follow Him faithfully or believe that just believing in who He is is probably enough. They basically know right from wrong and do not consider themselves bad people. There's much more depth to all this.

We are told not to conform to this world..this world's view of what is acceptable. Conform is defined by Strong's Concordance as conform one's self (i.e. one's mind and character) to another's pattern, (fashion one's self according to). The word self is the main word. The world is self oriented. What pleases self is what determines who the world is.

When I say I don't like violent movies or foul language in movies, off color jokes or certain demeaning, debasing tv programs...or go as far as being against abortion, homosexuality, immorality...I am going against the world flow. To me, and to others who follow Christ, it is offensive. Why? Because I've had an encounter with Jesus.

So I pretty much go against the grain for many I know. I'm known to be different. There's a price for being different. It's one I wrestle with constantly. I want to be accepted in certain circles but, although I'm not utterly cast out, I'm not as popular and often am on the sidelines, included occasionally, called rarely.

I don't need to talk only about God, trust me. But I do enjoy conversations with my Christian friends, especially when we get into depth which usually ends up talking about the Lord. Why? Because He's our center. That, by the way, is considered worship: Give to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness or in holy array. Psalm 29: 2...Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; meditate on and talk of all His wondrous works and devoutly praise them! 1Chronicles 16: 9. You can't tell me that if anyone were highly praised by others they wouldn't like it! God loves it when we talk about Him.

Going against the grain, rubbing people the wrong way, going against the flow. Taking God seriously,  enjoying His company and rejoicing in His Words of life, hope, peace, joy...things that He can generously provide over the man on the street...or the men in control of earthly governments...are delightful. They truly are.

This is not some arrogant thought, although even that could be considered controversial. The things of God are foolishness to those who do not understand, scripture says. The Word of God is all truth. Going against that truth is going against God Himself. That's why it is important to be in relationship with Jesus. This relationship is available to anyone. So if it's open to anyone, by God's invitation to ALL, how can it be considered arrogant? That sounds more like love.

People, however, struggle with being told He and His the truths in His Word are better than what the world has to offer,  being told His way is narrow, it's not about a denomination but relationship, about Him being the only way to heaven and eternal life, about only one road leading to Him, about the difference between heaven and hell, about pride and arrogant thinking that we do not need Him because we can do on our own quite well, thank you. It's about Him. "I Am" is His claim. From beginning to end. It's always about Him.

So it's against the grain. It's dying to our fleshly life and desires that we might have life. It's putting to death our earthly nature and putting on the things of Christ. Earthly nature versus spiritual. Bad versus good. Letting go of what again is against the grain, idols: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed (Colossians 3:5). Yes, idols.

God has always gone against the grain. He is the narrow Way, the absolute Truth and the perfect Life. It goes against the flow to worship Him because of His claim that "I Am" and there's nothing that can change that. It truly is His way or the highway. Right or wrong. White or black. It's a choice...with consequences for those who opt not to choose.

I know I go against the grain writing this. Jesus had hard words that people rejected and anyone can reject mine. There were many in His day who heeded those hard words and today they are truly in a better place. I go against the grain to speak His truths.

As I was letting this blog "rest" before posting, I received an email from a friend that fit into all this. She was referring to an overview of a DVD called The Great Church by Jim Staley. "The enemy knows that in order to destroy God's people, all that he needs to do is to destroy the founding "Constitution" of God…His Law. If he could convince the people that His Law, ordinances and commandments that He intended for Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness were no longer relevant for today, that the people would fall into bondage by creating their own laws. The enemy has crafted and executed his plan perfectly as he has convinced mankind that the Law of God is no longer relevant for today. He has even convinced us that it was God's idea to get rid of it!" 

The enemy has deceived people into thinking self and world are better than God. It is he who causes people to believe see the things of God as against the grain.

Ephesians 5:15-17 - See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord  is.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Purpose in Your Heart

Daniel 1:8,17 - But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

Purposed in his heart. Defile. Delicacies. Knowledge, skill, wisdom, understanding. There are many people shown in God's Word who are wise because of their devotion to God and good choices.There are also many occurrences where ignorance or personal desires and poor choices did not cause goodness in people's lives...and often death.

There are choices we make in life and all choices have consequences. If we, like Daniel and his three friends, purpose in our heart to do what is right, good will come of it. They purposed not to defile themselves and they were shown to have been given good things because of it. In this particular instance, they opted to shun the richness and opulence of the king's lifestyle. In return God gave them wisdom and understanding. Having God's wisdom in our lives is what brings goodness; understanding what He would want us to do.

The king asked for an interpretation of a dream. He called the magicians, astrologers and sorcerers to interpret it; if they could not, they would die. They asked what the dream was so they could go about translating but he told them they had to make known the dream and the interpretation. (Obviously it was assumed because of their "occupations" they would be able to do so.) They couldn't. However, Daniel, having sought the things of God over the things of man was given the wisdom and understanding to both know the dream and its interpretation and he offered to do so.

As an aside, of magicians, astrologers and sorcerers God says: Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:31). They do not have the right answers. They deceive. Our enemy deceives. They are not of God. We are to call on the LORD, seek Him, not man.

We are faced each day with choices. We can look at two things put before us and choose that which could be considered an earthly desire over that which is the better thing. Things of the world can deceive us into believing they are what we need. The things of God, which may not appear on the surface to be what we need, truly are in the end is the wisest choice. We can choose to live a life without God or have that relationship with the God who created all things. One is the better choice.

Nebuchadnezzar was the king above...of Babylon. Babylon is a biblical term for the world. Do we choose to go along with the flow of the world and its desires, things that will not last and have no meaning after we die, or do we do like Daniel and choose the things of God that will bring wisdom and knowledge and good, success?

Daniel chose the things of God. He took no credit to the ability to interpret the king's dream, but only praised God for the wisdom, knowledge and power that He gave:  “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. (Daniel 2:20 )" He gave credit where credit is always due.

I wish I could go into the dream! You can read it in Daniel 2:24-45. It basically ends with the fact that in the last days there will be a final kingdom that will overthrow all the others. It is the Kingdom of God which will defeat all the kingdoms of earth/man. He is always in control, His ways are true and just, and as we follow and seek Him, we have made the right choice. Our futures will be secure.

If we purpose in our hearts to be stayed on the things of God over the things of the world, all knowledge and wisdom, the mysteries of God, will be given to us. How exciting is that? What is it that man has to offer that is greater than He who created each of us, knows the very number of hairs on our heads, who provides, protects, heals and even disciplines because He loves us. Can man provide eternal life? Can man provide internal peace? Some think they are wise but that is man's wisdom alone, which is considered foolishness. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. (Psalms 10:4)

Daniel is a good example. He sought God over man. We see over and over in scripture how the followers of God were successful. Even those who strayed for a time and failed but returned to God were successful. This success is not measured in what we achieve, how high on the ladder we climb, who we know or even become. God sees not as man sees ...for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1Samuel 16:7b)

What do we want in life? To know that God is by our side? To know that He who is able to change the times and seasons and who says that if He will take care of a small sparrow, how much more will He take care of us? What man can we trust to do these things? Nothing on earth is nearly great enough...no amount of fame or fortune can provide the one thing God can. Eternal security and lifetime provision, protection and spiritual healing.

I choose that which Jesus has to offer over that which man can provide. You can too.

Daniel 2:21-22 - And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Healing the Captives

Isaiah 1:1, Luke 4:18 - “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to  those who are bound."  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed..."

In Sunday school yesterday morning it was brought up that when we come to a place of absolute need, absolute helplessness the best thing we can do is go to God. We find the time to sit quietly and wait for Him. We may not be able to speak, but He already knows what we need. All we need to do is sit in His presence and allow Him the opportunity to speak to us, letting Him bathe us in His love, comfort, even wisdom or discipline (for our own good) in whatever we are going through.

Unless one has done this it is nearly impossible to express what happens. If we give whatever troubles us to Him, lay it at His feet and tell Him we just don't know what to do or how to get through the situation, THEN He is able to get to work. He might even be thinking, At last...you're finally going to let Me handle it. It's what I've been waiting for for so long. But we sometimes cling to something all the while fretting about the fact we aren't able to do anything about it. Sometimes we give it to God just to take it back because we don't see changes. We AREN'T always able to do something ourselves and God's timing IS always perfect. It's still, and always will be, all about trusting in His perfect ways. Abraham and Sarah learned the hard way and so often we all will in something.

Then the sermon was not really a sermon but a testimony that fit so well with what was discussed in Sunday school. I love how God does that! Bob and Audrey Meisner explained to us about God's love even during a time of infidelity and betrayal in their marriage. They showed us how God didn't take them out of the hurts but guided them through and taught them many things during their trial. It took perseverance, faith and trust in God. It no doubt meant countless hours before Him.

As a preview to Sunday our pastor sent a link to view so we would have a feel for this couple. I watched it and wept. It did not relate to anything in my marriage but it just showed so clearly what the right things were to do and how when we just do what we know to be right God can turn bad into good, mourning can turn into joy, and despair into hope. It's part of humbling ourselves.

It's not always going to be easy but, as Bob said, we might be told we need to grow up. It's not about what we want or our feelings, but what God wants to do in us and then through us. The two work hand in hand. And if we are going to be stubborn about it, He may have to humble us in the process (and tell us to grow up).

This wasn't said but I'm guessing part of what we experience when we are in the middle of something we'd rather not be is to show us a glimpse, just a glimpse, of what Jesus endured for us. Endured... We just won't ever fully understand what He has done for us. He was humble all His life and endured a lot of rejection. Who are we to say we shouldn't ever have to suffer?

Now just because this was a married couple talking about the biggest trial so far in their marriage didn't mean there wasn't a message for all people. We all have feelings at times of insecurity, guilt, shame, whatever, that holds us captive to lies against who Christ says we are. We allow the lies of the enemy to tear us down. Any thought that takes us back to any incident that caused us harm or doubt about who we were before we were in Christ has us captive to satan.

Bob explained the story of blind Bartimaeus. He sat at the gate begging for alms. He wore a coat showing he was allowed to be there for that reason. When he heard that Jesus was in town and could hear the commotion of His nearing and the throngs of people gathering to see Him, perhaps be healed, Bartimaeus rose to his feet and cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me." He was bound and determined to be healed, ignoring the people around him wanting him to silence himself. He threw this very coat that labeled him blind to the ground as he began to grope through the crowd. Jesus saw him and asked him what He wanted Him to do. Bartimaeus said he wanted sight. Jesus told him to go his way, that his faith (to the point of tossing off his coat?) had made him well. And his sight was restored.

No need to explain further how he praised and worshiped God. When He heals, it IS a reason to shout.

Audrey experienced guilt and shame. When we have done something thoughtless and wrong and realize our mistake, the last thing we want to do is admit it; yet that guilt will only fester unless it is revealed. Bob experienced betrayal, anger and probably worst of all, transference of blame. Neither knew how they were going to get through this. They were, in essence, blinded by their feelings (and sin) but with God's grace and mercy and His Holy Spirit to strengthen them, they worked out their differences and today are proof that humbling, perseverance, forgiveness and love CAN heal. They had both been held captive. Only God could bring perfect healing.

What coat(s) are we still wearing that need to be thrown down or laid at Jesus' feet that we might be healed? What lies are we still believing despite the promises and declarations of who we are now that we are in Christ? Let's think about this. Let us go to God and sit quietly listening to His Spirit connect with ours. There is a scripture that just came to mind: Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1).

Are we going to persevere in our walk with God or are we going to allow the enemy to throw his fiery darts at us? We can see and read about endless testimonies of God's faithfulness. Are we going to take the time to diligently listen to our God or listen to lies? He can heal all wounds, He can heal all relationships, He can handle all those situations where you have finally given up. We must be willing to cast aside what causes us to remain captive to the enemies lies. We must take the time to sit at His feet and be encouraged remembering who He says we are in Christ.

Colossians 2:6-10 - As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The World and the Light

John 1:5,9,11 - And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

We are starting a study on the Book of John (Life Change Series) in Sunday school tomorrow. After I read the first few verses and looked at the questions for the first chapter, I went back to a comment was made in the study book. It was regarding the world. The word world comes from, in this instance, the Greek word kosmos. It means a variety of things like an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government. The inhabitants of the earth, men, the human race. The ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ. World affairs, the aggregate of things earthly. The whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc., which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ (Strong's Concordance).

The comment was: the world is corrupted by sin, so it is evil, dangerous, futile, temporary. Satan dominates the world; that is, the world of people who are not yet born of God and freed from darkness. The world that God created to be a lovely and ordered ornament became an ugly and strife-torn world order because men rejected God and fell under control of evil.

Believe it or not, much of what we see happening in the world today is dominated by satan. He has such a grip on society. People don't see it or they reject it. Do you really think anyone in their right mind would think they, a good person, could be dominated by satan? Isn't that reserved for murderers, rapists, thieves and the like, they may ask.

When a person is born of Christ, born of the Spirit, not man, and receives the light of Christ in their lives, they also receive truth. This light exposes ugliness and corruption and changes their view on things.

Seeing and knowing all the ugliness through the eyes of Christ helps get us through, although we don't approve of it. We know Who created it, how the world is playing it out and how it will end...for both those who have received the Light and those who have rejected Him.

When I say reject, I'm not just talking about atheists, those of non-Christian faith or those who don't attend church. I'm talking about those who believe that, because they attend church or are a certain denomination, they are believers.  There are plenty in our churches who go because they somehow think that is enough, it makes them good.

A true believer is one who has received Christ in their spirit. God has been able to penetrate the darkness of their hearts with His light. They have made a commitment to follow Him daily, think on Him daily, meditate on His Word, are obedient to what He tells us is true and just, and obedient to His call. Just knowing who He is won't cut it. Unless one truly commits the self to Jesus he has basically rejected Him, which is a very hard word, but backed up by scripture.

It takes commitment to follow Christ. It takes determination, patience, perseverance and willingness to learn, change and be transformed. There should be a difference people can see, whether others like it or not.

This world has allowed itself to believe a lot of stuff is for the good of mankind. Without the light of Christ it will continue to be a lie in their hearts and minds. I'm talking about those issues in society where it would "behoove us" to be tolerant of certain things, embracing diversity, as it were, allowing things that seem to benefit a person because society says it's so. God would disagree on some of those very issues that should be tolerated and supported (abortion, homosexuality, pornography to name a few).

Apart from all the ugliness of the world, God still is working to fulfill the statement that He wishes none to perish. He brought the Light into this world for that very reason. But for the most part the world loves the darkness and is being held captive to satan's lies. And sometimes no amount of truth being told will change their minds without a good shakeup by God Himself. Therefore, there will be two end results some day. A good one, with Christ, and the dreadful one with satan.

Let the true light of Christ into your life for a good end result. The promises for those who do are glorious. It is not about our physical bodies or lives, but our spiritual.

John 1:12-13 - But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hear My Voice

Acts 3:6-10 - Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Heavenly Father, this is what You desire. You desire we look to You as a Church for our healing. You ask us to take Your hand and rise up and walk. When we do we will be healed. This is not just physical but spiritual. We need to take action, to shake off those things that cause us to be deaf, dumb, blind...and lame. When we allow this in our lives we will recognize Who has done the work. We will rejoice in our healing, be renewed in our spirits. Lord, people will take notice and be filled with wonder and amazement.

I ask that this happen to the Church. Tear down walls of deception and denomination. Bring us who believe in Jesus Christ into unity. As Acts 3:15 states, we have killed the Prince of life. We have allowed ourselves to do this; we have strayed from right principles and allowed...allowed...self to control. Let that time be finished. Let righteousness begin to rise up once again in Your Church. Let our faith and worship in You once again become the focus in Your Church.

As a Church we have become ignorant in our understanding of Truth. Let us repent of that ignorance and refusal to shed our pride and arrogance and man's ways over Yours. Let us come to the altars of our churches and repent of those sins of disobedience and ignorance. Open our ears to hear what You have told us, like You did in Revelation 2 and 3: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes:
I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God...
He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death...
I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives  it.
And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—and I will give him the morning star....
He...shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels....
I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall  go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name...
I will grant (him) to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

These were spoken to the churches that would be in these last days. Only the faithful church was good in Your eyes. The others needed work. I pray that we would heed these words and do as You say that we would become THE Church You desire. Let us become that faithful church.

Today You are standing at the door of all hearts and knocking, offering these gifts and promises to all who have ears to hear. You call out to us, "Hear My voice, let me in so I might heal you who are dead, have grown cold or lukewarm, loveless, persecuted, have compromised or become corrupt. I knock at your hearts as well as those who do not believe at all. It is time to rise up and walk. Let your lameness be no more. Do not allow yourselves to be destroyed by your self will. Let not yourselves be destroyed for lack of knowledge...and truth. The days grow short and darker. Seek me. Seek unity with the brethren for My sake."

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus and Holy Spirit, cause the hearts of the Church to return to You and the truth of Your Word return to the Church pulpits. Let repentance and revival come forth. We need to hear what is expected of us in these days. We need to hear Your voice and submit to Your will. We need to understand the power we have through Your Holy Spirit and that we need to be so dedicated as to be willing, through that power, to give our lives up for You for our faith just as You gave up Your life for us.

There must be a restoration within the Church. That begins first with me, then with each and every member of every church. Restoration comes after repentance...church-wide. We need to hear what You have spoken. We need to share what You have spoken.

You will be sifting and shaking Your Church. Who will be righteous enough to survive? Who will be willing to let go of self and lend an ear to Your Words and be obedient? Who will arise and act on Your wishes?  Let us remove the stains of sin and guilt. Let us heed Your call. Let us rise up and walk in Your ways, O God.

1Peter 4:17 - For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Stretched But Not Snapped!

Mark 13:11 - ...do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 

Those who know me will understand what I am about to write. God has given us all certain gifts. I have mentioned in past blogs a desire for a voice although my gift is writing. I don't do well speaking in public, even smaller groups. I have things to say but the words don't always come out in a way that is interesting to others.

So...today I was stretched. I spoke. But it was not really I who spoke. It was definitely the Holy Spirit who had been prompting me all morning. These words came smoothly, despite shaking hands and voice!! We are, after all, called to witness. It just don't matter whether we are eloquent or not; we are called to be obedient. This was a small step.

I attended a book club meeting and was the leader of the discussion of a book I chose. Most liked the book and the conversation was full. It was better than I imagined it would be.  

The book was Angels of Morgan Hill by Donna VanLiere, about a black family in the late 40's, early 50's who moved to the small community of Morgan Hill where they were the only black family, causing people's true selves to really surface. The book showed how bad things happen to good people but sometimes those bad things have to happen in order for good to come about. And how the people in our lives shape our character, whether good or bad.

A fire to the home of this new family causes Milo to lose his entire family. The cause of the fire is not exactly known, but it was suspected to be arson. There were several characters in the book: Jane, the young girl narrating, her once-abused mother Fran, whose husband had died, and who promises Milo's mother on her death bed she would take him in as her own, Milo who turns the community upside down just because of his color, Henry, the owner of the general store and Joe, Fran's new love. 

After reading the book I thought about the characters. For some reason I couldn't shake that Henry the grocer was to me the central character. And I knew this was the basis for my review. You see he knew what everyone was going through, what they needed, could supply their needs if they allowed (or without their even knowing), was a father figure to Jane and a comfort to her family and probably others. It was his way. 

As I was reading the book, I didn't see what I'm about to share. It only came later. What I felt in my spirit was Henry being like God, omniscient, all knowing, knowing everything about us and what exactly we need, supplying those needs if He is the central figure in our lives. He is our Father and can be our Comfort if we allow Him. 

But just hours before I left I felt led to add Joe. I questioned why. I think I knew I was questioning the Holy Spirit. The answer came in an instant...he was a Savior. It was made known in the book that Joe had always loved Fran. From the time they were small children till now. He had never married and had returned to the town occasionally to help in his parents' tobacco field at the fall harvest and auction. It didn't matter that Fran made some wrong choices and suffered for them; he loved her no matter what. And he wanted to give her a better life to allow her to realize she was worthwhile. He wanted to be her husband.

Jesus does that for us. He has loved us with an everlasting love. He doesn't care what we've done as long as we turn to Him and allow Him to be our Husband. He forgives all things and makes us new. Just what Joe wanted to do. 

All the bad situations were turned around for good. Lives changed for the better. Milo was accepted in the community. People's hearts changed. There were those people who fought against evil and did good despite others and evil did not prevail. 

God allowed my voice today. I don't know how everyone felt about it but it doesn't matter. If I had not been given the two ideas, it would just have been another book
club review. But God had other plans. I know this may seem a not-so-big thing to many, but it was for me. And, sadly, it shouldn't be. I was stretched but I did not snap! I just followed through. One comment was: That was a great analogy. 

I thank God. I cannot take credit for any more than opening my mouth and being obedient to speak. Lord, bring it on!!!

Galatians 1:10 - For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

Monday, January 7, 2013

You Are Blessed

Matthew 5:11-12 - Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

Life in Christ is the greatest reward.  In Christ means you have chosen the Way to heaven. It means you are considered a child of God. Nothing could be more important.

Following Christ, however, comes at a price. That price is persecution for your beliefs. Not everyone would call it persecution. Not everyone is going to believe what you have experienced is real. You will meet with resistance, antagonism, churlish responses, quickly ended conversations, or even ignoring. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

There you have it. These are more subtle ways of persecution and yet some are being, have been and will be physically persecuted for their faith. 

It can be kind of hard to rejoice in the midst of rejection! But thankfully it only takes a short time to shake off the negative words or actions and regain the joy and peace that only Jesus brings, knowing that Jesus is not always a popular subject. 

Later in Matthew 5 followers are called the salt of the earth and the light of the world...for Jesus. We are to continue where He left off, opening eyes of those who do not believe, understanding that if He was persecuted, so we shall be.

I was thinking this morning about Jesus' first statement after being baptized and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The words were: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. That may have been a couple thousand years ago, but we are closing the gap when the kingdom of God truly will be at hand. I thought about how many say, "Yeah, right; He still hasn't returned. We've heard this all before." 

Two thousand years ago He started with a handful of men, walking in their very small territory. The numbers grew, means of transportation and technology have greatly increased the possibility of reaching others. Preaching to the ends of the earth has become a reality. All along the way followers were persecuted, including most of His disciples. Some people they encountered believed, some didn't. It didn't stop those followers then, so it won't stop  followers today. Nothing changes. It's worth the cost...

In fact, Philippians 3:8 tells us this: Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. Great is your reward in heaven if you stick to your guns and stand steady in your faith despite what others might say or think.

John 15:20 - Remember the word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Let There Be Light

Genesis 1:2-4 - The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that  it was  good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 

Okay, you caught me. It's January 1. Does anyone else start out the year with every intention of an organized Bible reading plan? Does anyone ever get sidetracked?

I like a certain amount of structure. I like lists. I would like to like time schedules that do not change, but then that ain't always gonna happen! I'd also like to have time stand still so I could catch up. So, I began this morning determined to start my reading plan only to get halted for an indefinite time. Right off the bat. As much as I love it, it tends to set me back too! So already this morning I was stopped in my tracks at the beginning of Genesis. Heaven help me! 

The question came to me, how could God create light when it isn't until the fourth day He created the sun and moon? I know nothing is impossible with God. And we humans have a tendency to over complicate God's ways sometimes. His ways are not ours, His thoughts not like ours.

It got me thinking. People are very much like the first two verses! We, like the earth, are formless and void (of truth) in the beginning. But look what happens: the Spirit of God hovers and He says "Let there be light." We experience darkness and void of truth in this world until we have seen the Light.

We don't have to be reminded who causes the darkness. But I am thankful that Jesus is the Light of the World. Oh, it gives me shivers to consider the very real depth to that statement that is almost beyond words. Jesus, the Word, who spoke and the world was created, who created the light on that first day, as He is the Light. Old Testament, New Testament. 

God says He is the Light. There is no darkness in Him. He chose to bring Himself into our little corner of the universe to reveal His light to the creation He was contemplating. He brought Himself FIRST into the plan! It all starts with Him. Is this amazing or what? And He IS good. Light is good; darkness is not. He wants us all to come out of the darkness into His light. 

This is the first day of creation in Genesis. This is the first day of a new year. This can be the first day when God's Spirit is hovering in anyone's  life and saying," Let there be light." Let there be a difference between the darkness and the light in the lives of many. Let us walk in the light and be separated from the darkness, just as God created a separation between light and dark.

God created this world for a purpose. He created Man for a purpose. He knew darkness would take over. He brought a Light to change lives. He brought Himself into the world to be the very Light that shines in the darkness...for all to see. Let the Light of Christ become part of your life this day, this year. 

Has it occurred to anyone else that we just celebrated the birth of Christ...at the end of the year? And now we have a new year ahead of us. We have experienced His birth, now let's let this Light that came into this very world so He could become part of our lives, into our lives, that whoever receives this Light might be considered parted from the darkness of this world.

John 8:12 - Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life