Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!, image courtesy of dayspring.com

My thanks to each of you who've shared your thoughts, life, fellowship and Christian journey with me this year; you've openly shared your faith and commitment to Christ. You've also blessed, encouraged and challenged me to Live for Christ.

May our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ bless you and your family as you continue your walk of faith in this coming New Year of 2011.


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

One Glorious Saviour, image courtesy of Dayspring.com
One Glorious Saviour

"Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!
"

(Revelation 15:3, NASB)



Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays

Monday, December 20, 2010

God said...(Part 2)

In my last post, I talked about the first two characteristics of God's word. The bible declares that God's word is:
  1. Alive
  2. Powerful, and
  3. Revelational
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.1

God’s word is revelational: God’s word reveals His will, purpose and acts, but God’s word also reveals my thoughts, intents, and condition. God’s word opens my life before Him, revealing to me the truth of who I am, where I am, and what I need. God has revealed Himself through His spoken word, His written word, and His Son, Jesus Christ, The Living Word.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son,2

Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.'”3

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.4

When God speaks, His words go beyond influence and charisma, God infuses his words with His Spirit and His life so that what He says is indistinguishable from who He is. God’s word is alive and full of power! There is never an instance when what God says is differentiated from who God is.

Who you are is distinguished by what you say and do. By this I mean that we have the ability to perceive the difference between what someone says from what they do. As a child, I heard adults say, "Don't do as I do, do as I say." It was as if I was expected to ignore what my eyes were seeing. The beauty of Almighty God is that you cannot distinguish God from His word. Where does God end and His word begin? God is indistinguishable from His word.

"And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power..."5

God’s word extends beyond the revelation of who He is, His word reveals who I am. I can stand before a mirror and see a reflection of myself, but what I see is only a reflection, not a revelation. My reflection is viewed by my own perception of who I am. A woman looks in the mirror and sees herself as too fat. A man looks in the mirror and sees himself as too bald. A boy looks in the mirror and sees himself as too short. A girl looks in the mirror and sees herself as too plain. A reflection can never show what God’s word reveals. God’s word cuts through the reflection of what I see and exposes the true condition of my life.

It is only when I discover the revelation of who God is that I finally see who I am.

What God says, is upheld, reinforced and sustained by who God is; a revelation of real truth that I can always rely upon what God says. This got me to thinking of what God said in creation.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.6

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.7

God spoke light where none had existed. Why? So that we in this world having eyes, might see the illumination, beauty and glory of Him who has always existed. It wasn’t just God saying, I allow light to now be a reality, God sent forth His word as Light in a world filled with darkness.

The bible often speaks about the fear experienced by those who are in the presence of God. The common thread in those instances is God saying, Don’t be afraid.

He said, 'I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.'”8

When God says, do not be afraid, He is sending forth His word as courage to a person overcome with fear. When God says the word Peace, He sends forth His word as peace to silence conflict. Whatever God says, is representative of who God is. God is honorable, so His word must be honored; God honors and upholds His word.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.9

…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.10

God’s word has purpose, direction, and fulfillment. I think about things I’ve faced in life and how God sent His word, and as a result, my life changed. In some instances, it didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. There were times when I didn’t understand how, but it happened. God said it, and my life was changed. God takes what I lack and strengthens me by His word. It’s what Joshua needed to hear after Moses died.

Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.11

God wasn’t just saying the words, “Be strong and courageous…” to Joshua. God spoke strength and courage into Joshua’s life so that what Joshua saw was not a reflection, but a revelation. Joshua saw the strength and courage of God saying, I swore to their fathers that I would give them possession of the land.

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,12

This is the certainty of God’s word! In a courtroom, a person swears to tell the truth; they commit themselves to speaking the truth based on someone being greater than them. Since there is none greater than God, God binds what He says with who He is.

Whatever we face in this life, God says a word appropriate to our circumstances. Whatever it is, God has spoken to that circumstance; in order for His word to stand above and beyond my thoughts, fears, hurts, pain, afflictions, hunger, death or anything I face. God has spoken to it already; there is nothing in my life greater than God.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.13

No matter what you may find yourself up against, remember that God said…

Let God’s word take hold of you and strengthen you to face your fears, hurts, pain, hunger, death or whatever you may be going through. When you feel like you can’t go on, listen to God speak to you, strengthening you with the word of endurance.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.14

Father God,

Thank you that Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light on my path. Thank You that Your word is alive: in me! O Lord, create in me a clean heart that I would worship You with joy and gladness. You strengthen me by Your word. Your word reveals to me how much I need you every moment in my life; I rely on You Lord. What joy Your word gives me. Regardless of my circumstances I know You are here with me; I'm not afraid. I can trust Your word just as I trust You, Your word represents You. I ask You Lord, to speak to those crying out for Your word, for a revelation of You, of Your truth. Speak to that need, that lack, that hurt, whatever cries out from our heart to You O Lord. Your word can never fail. May Your grace shower down upon our lives. No matter what circumstance we face, we're not alone, encourage us Lord. Reveal Your word to us, in us, and Your plan and purpose for our lives. You are the God who loves us, O God, we can do nothing without You. Your grace is always sufficient, that's why I shall praise You always. Thank You Lord. Amen.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger). You'll find blogs openly professing a love for Christ, and a passion to share. I encourage you to visit. You won't be disappointed.Spiritual Sundays

Footnotes:
  1. Hebrews 4:12, NLTB
  2. Hebrews 1:1-2, NASB
  3. Exodus 34:27, NASB
  4. John 1:1, NIV
  5. Hebrews 1:3, NASB
  6. Genesis 1:3, KJV
  7. 1 John 1:5, NASB
  8. Genesis 46:3, NASB
  9. Matthew 24:35, NASB
  10. Isaiah 55:11, NIV
  11. Joshua 1:6, NASB
  12. Hebrews 6:13, NASB
  13. Romans 8:38-39, NASB
  14. Philippians 4:13, NKJV
References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  3. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  4. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  5. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  6. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  7. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896

Friday, December 17, 2010

God said.... (Part 1)

What comes to mind when you hear the words, “God said”? How do the words, “God said” affect you? These two questions got me to thinking during a recent meditation. The bible says that God’s word is alive, powerful, and revelational:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.1

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.2

When God speaks, it is unlike any words I could utter; there is a vast difference between what God says and what I say. God’s words are spiritual and life-giving words.

Every word I've spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making.3

God’s word contains the elemental qualities of creativity; giving and sustaining life where none existed. We recognize great works of art, music and literature, yet none of those we recognize have the inherent ability to infuse life where none existed. Science and researchers are making tremendous strides in biotech research, yet what they discover and produce is not life-making; they have simply discovered how to manipulate properties at a cellular level that already have life.

God’s word is Alive: Recognizing that God’s word is alive ought to cause me to seek more of His word in my life, causing me to think, say and do that which affirms and glorifies Him. The fact that God’s word is alive is what propels me forward. His word is alive to the extent that as I store His word in me, I am renewed, invigorated, and refreshed. The sad truth is that I often find myself bogged down by my own words that continually try to shape my view of the world I live in. I keep thinking about a post written by Joan (Reflections) called The Right Perspective ~ Choosing Thankfulness, in which she expresses that we need to look carefully at 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to see that it says, give thanks in all circumstances, not thanks for all circumstances. It has helped me tremendously to appreciate the grace of God that sustains me in every aspect of my life. Having the properties of life, God’s word sustains me with patience and endurance. I’m learning to thank God no matter what the circumstance (all things) may be. I remind myself of His word, what God said so that my spirit is renewed with the life-giving, sustaining properties of God’s word; enabling me to endure and get through my circumstances.

God’s word is powerful: Men and women make powerful decisions in government and business that affect the lives of many, yet they lack the ability to say one word that is truly creative and sustaining. Who is there that can oppose God? The bible recounts numerous instances when those with power assumed they were above God only to come face to face with the God whose power they had not imagined possible. The bible asks the question in Revelation:

…who shall be able to stand?4

God’s word is alive and powerful. Combining these two elements tells me that God has the ability to make and shape who, what, when, where, why, and how He speaks His word. Touring a nuclear power facility gives one an idea of the awesome power of nuclear energy and yet nuclear energy pales in comparison to the power of God’s word.

Who but God can speak a word that changes my life?

I remember a commercial in which a group of investors were discussing the volatility of the stock market. One investor asks a question of a representative of this prestigious investment company and as the man begins to answer, the entire room of investors turns silent and attentive to what is about to be spoken. The slogan of the commercial was:

When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.

Questions to answer:
  1. Am I attentive to what God says?
  2. Do I thirst for more of His word?
  3. Do I see His word as a lamp to my feet and a light to my path?
  4. Do I believe that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is able to resurrect my life?
People with influence have an audience but there are times when even influential people are at a loss for words, or are unable to change the overall attitudes of others. Throughout history, there have been notable people with charisma, but even charismatic people lose the power of their charisma. You can be a person of influence, charisma or some other quality that enables you to affect others, but you can always be identified by some other trait. A person of influence can also be insensitive. A charismatic person can also be a liar. Who you are is distinguished by what you do.

The power of God’s word finds no obstacle too hard, no mountain too high, no valley too low, and no river too deep that cannot be overcome by what God says. God’s word represents Him by representing His power. We have seen the destructive power of explosives and machinery that can demolish a building, but that power has no ability to oppose the power God. God’s word has no peer; nothing can stand up to the awesome power of God. What God says cannot be revoked or invalidated by anyone.

I will continue this discussion in my next post.

Father God,

Thank you for the joy You give, and what You have said regarding Your word. I want to rely on Your word because You renew, refresh and invigorate my life. I want to count it all joy, no matter what circumstances I find myself in; I know You are with me in all things. I can trust You because Your word is representative of You. Your word is truth, lacking nothing. Your word never fails. I pray not for myself, but for family and friends, I pray for those reading these words as well. Speak to them as only the Sovereign God speaks. Shower your grace upon their lives. No matter what circumstance they may find themselves in, without a job, without a home, without family, without food, or whatever those circumstances are, speak the words that will illuminate their life, directing them what to do. You are the God who cares, loves and guides our steps. We can do nothing without You Lord. I pray Your favor upon them Lord, Your grace is sufficient. I want to always praise You, for who You are. Thank You Lord. Amen.


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger). You will find that the blogs linked there are filled with a love for Christ, and a passion to share. I encourage you to visit. You won't be disappointed.

Footnotes:
  1. Hebrews 4:12, NLTB
  2. Hebrews 4:12, The Amplified Bible
  3. John 6:63, The Message Bible
  4. Revelation 6:17, KJV
References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  3. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  4. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  5. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  6. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  7. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Keys to Listening

What did You say?Last week I wrote about discovering what God wants from me. At the time, I remember thinking; there is so much to be said on this topic. How can I fit it in just one post? I decided to write it in a way I felt gave honor to God, while offering encouragement to
those who hear or want to hear from God. Little did I know, that post would lead me into an area on my spiritual journey, which speaks to the subject of listening.

A friend whom I love and respect shared some thoughts about me (I asked) and my friend realizing how I (at times) tend to overreact tempered what was said. Of the few words which were spoken to me, there was one word which caught my attention. The word was never.

Now never is a word in and of itself, which can be either good or bad. I understood it to be absolutely bad. To me, the word was all-encompassing (even though it perhaps was not meant that way). For me, the word never, spoke to my past, present and future. For me, there was no escaping never.

I was imprisoned by a word which offered no reprieve.

I decided to go and pray because I needed grace to overcome the disappointment, hurt and anger echoing in my ears. I found myself directed by the Holy Spirit to James 1 and there I read something that pierced my disappointment, hurt and anger.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.1

What caught my attention were the words, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Anger does not produce agreement or the correct standing with God. I will never agree with God when I’m angry. If I won’t agree with God, I’ll never agree with anyone else.

I thought it might help if I looked at other versions of scripture to learn how it might be expressed:

The Message:
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God's righteousness doesn't grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!2

Living Translation:
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.3

This time, what caught my attention was, “get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts”. To accept the word God has planted in my heart takes humility. I cannot take a defensive position regarding my life (no matter how justified I may feel that position is) and be humble to the extent of accepting God’s word.

Why do I attempt to defend myself? What will my pleading and arguments accomplish?

The key to listening seems to be tied to both my senses and emotions. There are three actions I must take to humbly accept the word of God:
  1. Be quick to listen
  2. Be slow to speak
  3. Be slow to anger
Why does God want me to be quick to listen?

I believe listening in conjunction with my silence, short-circuits my mouth and emotions. If I’m not talking, I’m not attempting to defend myself. Look at the example of Christ:

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him,Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.4

Instead of listening, I opened my mouth in a vain attempt to defend myself. I was wrong.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!5

The example set forth by Christ is that of a servant! How can I presume to be more than Christ? Can I sublimate my ego to the place of humility? When I get there, I will find Christ waiting for me. To be humble, I must do more than listen…I must do what I hear. It serves me no useful purpose to listen, if I’m not committed to obeying God.

Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.6

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.7

Humility and obedience are interconnected as spiritual virtues. The more humble I become, the greater my capacity to obey God word. Having the capacity to obey is not the same as obeying. To obey takes discipline and self-control of my life, particularly what I say.

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.8

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.9

Watch your words and hold your tongue; you'll save yourself a lot of grief. You know their names—Brash, Impudent, Blasphemer—intemperate hotheads, every one.10

It is a difficult lesson, but one worthy of learning:
  1. Be quick to listen
  2. Be slow to speak
  3. Be slow to anger
These lead me to the place of humility and the path of obedience where I am welcomed by Christ.

Father God,

I realize that the in order to hear your voice, I must come to the place of humility. It is there where Christ wants me to stay, that I will hear Your voice. You don't want me to just hear, I must obey You. This is my desire O Lord. I reject my ego and my arrogance. I accept the mind of a servant; I will not practice my own form of self-justification. I am only justified by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Without Him, I am lost and I have no hope. I exalt You because You are life to me.

Now, O God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servants. For Your sake, Lord, look with favor on this nation of people. Give ear, our God, and hear; open Your eyes and see the emptiness of our hearts. We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because the people of this nation call on Your Name.

When we are weak, You give us strength. When we are afraid, You give us courage. When we are distressed, You give us peace. When we cry out for forgiveness, You hear and forgive our sins.

Thank You for all that You are O Lord. You are the Great and Mighty God who reigns supreme throughout eternity. We praise You with our hearts. Amen.


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger). I believe you will find the blogs linked there filled with a passionate love for Christ. I encourage you to visit. You won't be disappointed.

Footnotes:
  1. James 1:19-22, NIV
  2. James 1:19-22, The Message Bible
  3. James 1:19-22, New Living Translation Bible
  4. Mark 15:3-5, NIV
  5. Philippians 2:5-8, NIV
  6. Ezekiel 33:31-32, NIV
  7. James 1:26, NIV
  8. James 3:5, NIV
  9. Psalm 19:14, New Living Translation Bible
  10. Proverbs 21:23-24, The Message Bible
References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  3. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  4. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  5. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  6. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  7. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896


Friday, December 3, 2010

What Does God Want From Me?

What Does God Want From Me?

Call methe Quester.I've been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I looked most carefully into everything, searched out all that is done on this earth. And let me tell you, there's not much to write home about. God hasn't made it easy for us. I've seen it all and it's nothing but smoke—smoke, and spitting into the wind.

Life's a corkscrew that can't be straightened,

A minus that won't add up.

I said to myself,
I know more and I'm wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I've stockpiled wisdom and knowledge.What I've finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind.

Much learning earns you much trouble.

The more you know, the more you hurt.
1

But life must be more than just a quest to know, if it is to have real meaning. I thought about those of you who write about Christ, life, relationships and what it truly means to live a life that truly pleases God.

What does Christ see when He looks at me?

Am I seeking to give myself to Him or am I only seeking what I can get from Him?

I ask the Lord for something every day in prayer; without fail. I want something. I make my requests known to Him. Last night I confessed.

Why am I asking You when You already know my thoughts Lord?

When I pray for my son, or daughter, a relative or friend, when I pray for those who read this blog, is it then wrong to share my own personal needs before You Lord?

There is silence as I attempt to still my thoughts from running back and forth; keeping busy. My thoughts often seem to parallel Martha, who was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen when the Lord visited her home. I need silence that I might hear God speak to my spirit.

What does God say to you in the silence of your thoughts?

Often I hear the same words, time and again.

Worship Me.

Confess before Me.

How do you worship the Lord?

I looked for examples of worship in scripture and came across this tidbit:

…you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go...2

I thought about these words, “you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose… there for his dwelling”, and I realized that the place the Lord chose for me to worship is within me.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.3

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.4

God has put His Spirit in us so that we would walk before Him in the only way that truly pleases Him, faithfully.

But how am I to worship God?

In the Old Testament, the Israelites worshipped the Lord with burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings, but what does God really want from me?

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.

It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of his pasture
5

Do you think I feast on venison? or drink draughts of goats' blood? Spread for me a banquet of praise, serve High God a feast of kept promises...6

God wants to see me filled with gladness when I come before Him joyful songs. To worship Him in a way that tells Him, “I don’t want to hold anything back from You Lord.” God takes no pleasure in the sacrifice of animals when He has offered the ultimate sacrifice: His Son, Jesus Christ. He wants me to serve Him a banquet of praises, my very own recipe. God wants me to be faithful as He Himself is faithful, by keeping my word. God is Light so there cannot be even the slightest change that would mutate the character and nature of His promises. God is saying to me: Be faithful by keeping your promise to Me.

We say, “Take my life Lord.What do we mean by these words?

Do I want God to possess me in such a way that I’m not reserving any part of me from Him?

Have I given God access to my life which I previously kept reserved for me?

The Israelites sacrifices animals, what am I offering up to God from my life?

Do I give Him my time or am I too busy for God?

Do I give Him my talent, or am I using it to indulge myself?

Do I give Him my treasure, or is my treasure reserved for only me?

Do I realize how badly God wants what I hold on to so tightly?

It is an awesome thing to ponder the thought that, God values and wants me; all of me.

God is not satisfied with just a morsel of my life. No more than I would be satisfied with just a prayer that is proportionally answered to the degree I give myself to Him. If God divvied out His love, blessings, and grace to us the way we give ourselves to Him, would you be pleased with His effort?

God said this regarding His relationship with Abraham:

The LORD said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do'...7

God had no desire to hide from Abraham what He was about to do. I don’t believe God wants to hide from you or me what He is about to do in our life.

Do I want to know what God is going to do?

What can I learn from God when I come before Him with a heart willing to listen?

Will God respond when I:
  1. Worship Him without reservation
  2. Serve Him a banquet recipe of my sincere praise
  3. Confess my life before Him openly
  4. Honor my promises to Him faithfully
  5. Demolish the walls that hinder me hearing Him
God responds to me
I believe He will respond.

I can never meet the extent of God’s response to me, but I will never cease my effort to extend myself more and more towards Him.

Father God,

You are The Awesome God, the great I AM! It is You alone that I worship, You alone that I praise and You alone that I adore. How faithful You are to me! I want to prepare myself for You as a banquet of praise. You are too great for the few words I have to extol You. Someone once said, "What a wonder You Are!" How true these words echo in my thoughts. Your love and peace flood me beyond measure. I confess my sins that I may stand before You in reverence and adoration. Through Your Son, Jesus Chirst, there is no longer a wall of partition beween You and me. Thank You Lord Jesus for tearing it down and establishing peace with God on my behalf. No one could have done this but You Lord Jesus. I want to be faithful Lord, that I may stand in Your presence and hear what You're going to do. Heal those who cry out in anguish. Give favor and blessings to those who've lost job, career, home or family, but cling to a hope that You will respond. Move forth by the power of Your Spirit and reveal Yourself as The Sovereign Lord. Amen.


Spiritual Sundays

Note: Several months ago, a blogger friend suggested I visit Charlotte and Ginger who host the blog Spiritual Sundays, and that I should link in with fellow bloggers who share encouraging and inspirational posts.
I believe you will find hearts ablaze with faith, love, compassion, kindness, humility, and fellowship in Christ. I encourage you to visit. You won't be disappointed.

Footnotes:
  1. Ecclesiastes 1:13-18, The Message Bible
  2. Deuteronomy 12:4-5, NIV
  3. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NASB
  4. Ezekiel 36:27, NASB
  5. Psalm 100:1-3, NIV
  6. Psalm 50:13-14, The Message Bible
  7. Genesis 18:17, NASB
References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  3. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  4. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  5. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  6. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  7. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hemmed In

Israel crosses the Red Sea, image courtesy of www.bibla.ca
Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think,’ ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ "1

At some point, everyone who calls on the name of Jesus Christ will find their faith challenged. Some may argue with this statement by asserting, “My faith in Christ has never wavered!

Faith that wavers and faith that is challenged are not one in the same.

Often when my faith was challenged, I have felt as if I were hemmed in; as though I had no way out. I believe that the enemy of my faith wants me to regret my decision to trust God with the outcome; to somehow believe I can turn around and go back.

The Israelites experienced this challenge in Pi Hahiroth:

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.2

Fear always accompanies a challenge to your faith. You feel trapped, realizing there is no way of escape. You can’t go back, you can’t go laterally to the left or right, and there in front of you is an obstacle with no visible pathway.

How do you combat fear?

All of us experience fear in some form. All of us deal with fear differently.

A woman waits nervously for her doctor to reveal the news of tests that were run. An athlete anxiously awaits the announcement of his name so that he can race onto the field of competition. A politician tentatively awaits her introduction to a packed audience. A family faces the uncertainty of losing their home unless they can somehow resume making their mortgage payments. A man waits for a job offer after enduring months of unemployment.

Each of these people found themselves in dire straits much like the Israelites were in this passage of scripture; they were hemmed in by their circumstances. God told Moses,

Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp before Pi-Hahiroth, between Migdol and the [Red] Sea, before Baal-Zephon. You shall encamp opposite it by the sea.3

Israel reached a dead end at Etham. It was here that God told Moses to turn back. They then camped between the three geographic points of Pi-Hahiroth, Migdol, and Baal-Zephon (on the opposite side of the Red Sea). Etham was impassable, as was the impassable rocky terrain of Pi Hahiroth. Migdol was a military lookout post that many believe sent word to Pharaoh of the Israelites location. From their present position, the Israelites could see Baal-Zephon, but the Red Sea formed a gulf between the shores where they camped and the mountaintop view of Baal-Zephon. To make matters worse, they were being pursued by the military forces of Pharaoh’s army.

They were hemmed in!

They couldn’t go back to that life they left in Egypt, and it appeared as though they couldn’t escape Pharaoh’s army.

Watching as the Egyptians approached, fear grabbed them by the throat.

In their fear, they cried out to God. They cried out to the One who is The God of My Salvation. I wonder if they prayed, “God save me!

I’ve faced circumstances where I was hemmed in. Thinking about this passage of scripture, I can easily see myself in the position of Israel. I prayed for the God of miracles to rescue me. I called on the same God who provided a Pillar of Cloud and a Pillar of Fire, to demonstrate His miraculous power and might. Some may say that, “God works no miracles today.” Others may say, “There is no God.” But those who by faith trust in The Eternal God, believe that,

…without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.4

I believe that God was leading Israel to a land of promise, but to get there, Israel had to go through trials. They face circumstances that pointed to The One True God as their Deliverer. Israel feared Pharaoh and his army. But God wanted them to move from the place of fear to the place of faith. To get them to the place of faith, God had to deliver Israel and demolish Pharaoh’s army.

To get you to the place of faith, God must deliver you and demolish what you fear.

While your circumstance may have you hemmed in, the place of faith lies ahead of you; to get there, you must move forward.

It doesn’t matter how God opens up your path, all that matters is that you trust Him with each step you take. Sometimes we may go through a Red Sea experience where the doctors have done all they can do, and the sickness has us hemmed in. We don’t know if we will escape, but God says,

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
5

You may find yourself in the wilderness of the unemployed, hemmed in by the lack of opportunity. The bank may be ready to foreclose on your home but God is still the same. He loves and cares about every one of us.

When I’m hemmed in by fear and circumstance, I’ll remember to,

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.6

Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
7

I may be hemmed in by my circumstance, but I’m not without hope. I’m not going to live in fear and hopelessness. I’ll trust God to deliver me. I’m going to walk right up to the shoreline; I’ll do my part and trust God to make a way.

Sovereign God,

I'm standing on the shores of my very own Red Sea experience; hemmed in by a circumstance, but I'm not afraid. You are the same, yesterday, today and forever; Jesus Christ, Lord of all. Though the enemy of my faith rages, I will not be afraid. You order both night and day, the dawn arises by Your word. You are The God of Miracles. You proved Yourself in the wilderness to Israel. You delivered them from Pharaoh and his army. You completely vanquished the enemy of Israel just as it is written, "The Egyptians you see today you will never see again." My life is in Your hands Lord; I put my faith and trust in You. I wait on You Lord. Open up the windows of heaven and pour Your blessings upon us. You give us more grace that we may resist the enemy. Thank You Lord for delivering us from our circumstance. We thank and praise You, we give You the glory You richly deserve. Amen.


Spiritual Sundays

Note: Several months ago, a blogger friend suggested I visit Charlotte and Ginger who host the blog Spiritual Sundays, and that I should link in with fellow bloggers who share encouraging and inspirational posts.
I believe you will find hearts ablaze with faith, love, compassion, kindness, humility, and fellowship in Christ. I encourage you to visit. You won't be disappointed.

Footnotes:
  1. Exodus 14:1-3, NIV
  2. Exodus 14:10, NIV
  3. Exodus 14:2, Amplified Bible
  4. Hebrews 11:6, NASB
  5. Proverbs 3:5-6, NASB
  6. Psalm 27:14, KJV
  7. Isaiah 40:31, NASB
References:
  1. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  2. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6
  5. Amplified Bible, BibleGateway.com


Friday, November 19, 2010

A Lost Sheep

Note: This post is based on a true story, however, since I didn't obtain permission from those I wrote about, I changed their names. I do not believe this takes away from the events which occurred. Scripture declares that, "The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. (NLTB) Drugs have been used as a tool to rob, kill and destroy families. I pray that the gift of life through Jesus Christ provide healing, deliverance and salvation to those who've been wounded by drug addiction.

The Shepherd goes after the lost sheep, image courtesy of freegroups.net
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away!” (Matthew 18:11-13, New Living Translation Bible)

He sat there contemplating what to do with this news about his son. The news came as no surprise, still, it wasn’t the kind of news he wanted to hear. A childhood friend, who knew his son, thought he should know where and how he was living. The message kept repeating in his mind.

I thought you should know where your son is. He’s pretty bad off.

Those words summed it up all right. The father wrote down the address and sat there staring at the notepad. The words echoed in his mind again and again.

He’s pretty bad off.

Closing his eyes, he began to pray silently.

Father in heaven…Help me find my son. Let Your Spirit go before me and speak to his heart. Remind him of how he is loved and valued by You, his mother and me. I don’t know what to say, but I trust You to speak for me. You have a purpose for Him Lord. Pull him out of this gutter and show him true life. I ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

He stood up, walked to the closet and grabbed a jacket. His wife met him as he walked from the bedroom.

Who was that on the phone?

One of Ron’s school friends said he saw him tonight. I’m going to find him and talk.

I should go with you.” Her voice revealed the concern of a mother and wife.

He leaned in and kissed her. He would always do this when she needed assurance that everything would be alright; even when he didn’t know the outcome.

No, you stay here in case someone calls.

She looked into his eyes, searching for a clue. His smile always told her what she needed to hear.

Everything will be alright.

He kissed her a second time and said,

I’ll be back soon.

Then he disappeared out the door. She listened and heard the car engine starting and the gears of the chain lifting the garage door. She could hear his car drive off in the distant as the garage door began to shut.

Pulling into the parking lot, he quickly realized this was a place where one could indeed become lost. Trash littered the parking lot. There was an emptiness about this place; the word discarded came to mind. The lawn was just small patches of grass amid broken bottles, crushed cans and miscellaneous refuse. He reached into his pocket and opened the paper with the address and building number. He scanned the row of buildings, searching for some designation among the segmented units of horizontally connected homes. He could hear voices of children, the sound of music blaring, and a couple arguing loudly.

All these buildings look alike! He decided to ask someone for help. Walking up to a door, he began knocking.

Who is it?” The voice answered as the door opened.

He looked at a young girl holding a baby.

Hello? I’m looking for Ron. Do you know his apartment number?

She turned her back to him and shouted a name.

Billy.

Billy!

What!

You know somebody name Ron?

Who wants to know?

I don’t know, come here and see.

Finally, a young man approached the door.

You the one looking for Ron?

Yes, I’m his father and I need to speak with him.

For some reason, hearing the word, father seemed to make an impression on this young man; his demeanor turned respectful. He stepped out the door and said,

I can show you where he usually hangs out.

He silently followed this young man until they arrived at another building where the young man pounded his fist against the door.

A shirtless young man opened the door.

What’s up Billy?

Hey man, is Ron in there? This is his father.

Yeah, he’s here.” The door opened, inviting the father to come in.

Turning to Billy, he smiled and said, “Thanks.

As he entered the apartment, he quickly detected the smoke-filled fumes of marijuana. There were people sitting on the floor smoking; the room contained no furniture except for a small lamp that offered very little light. He followed the young man through the hallway, passing more dimly lit rooms. He could hear voices but was unable to understand any words spoken. As he entered the room at the end of the hall, he could see the faces of young men and women. They were just kids, sitting on the floor getting high. He noticed one of them holding a crack pipe and wondered,

What if the police raid this place? How do I explain being here?

As he looked around for his son, the young man walked up to a body, lying crumpled on the floor. Kneeling down, he spoke to the face supported by folded arms. As the face lifted up, the father could see his son. He waited silently while his son stood and walked toward him.

Hey Daddy, what are you doing here?” His voice asked the question but his eyes refused to look up at his father.

I came here for you son. I want to talk.” He looked at his son. Although he was now a young man, he could still see the face of that child who smiled with innocence. He didn’t come to berate him. Ron was lost and confused. It didn’t matter how or why; he needed help, even if he was too afraid to ask. He didn’t wait for Ron to reply.

I don’t care why you’re here son, but it doesn’t matter. You weren’t raised to live like this. Your mother and I love you and we want you to come home and let us help you work things out. I know what it’s like to live for a drug and in the end, all you get is consumed; there’s no payoff.

He embraced his son and whispered again.

I love you Ron.

I love you too Daddy.

As he held Ron, he began to pray. There was no resistance from Ron to escape his loving embrace.

Sovereign LORD,

No life is worthless to You. You see our coming and going. You love us with an uncompromising love. A love that required the sacrificial death of Your only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. When we lose our way, You search for us, so that none of us remain lost. You call out our name, with the voice of a Loving Father. Your Word declares, "All whom My Father gives (entrusts) to Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me]." You do this because You love us as it is written, "because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son." Thank You Lord for retrieving that one lost sheep. You are The Sovereign LORD, our Almighty God. Amen.


Friday, November 12, 2010

He'll Show Up

If there be anyone who's going through,
We have an answer to the problem for you;
Trust and obey and never give in,
Only the strong shall survive and win.
Just ask the question and the answer shall come,
Just exercise your faith and know He's The One.

If there is no sign,
Keep this in mind,
He'll show up on time.



Note: After reading some of the comments, I thought it best to add this to my post. What you're about to read happened many years ago in my life. It was one of the most difficult days in my life and although it remains a vivid memory for me, it is no longer painful. Looking back on that day, I realize just how gracious God was to me, giving me strength because I had none.


I listened intently as the man directed me where I needed to go:

Go to the end of this corridor, turn left and follow it until you get to the stairway. Go down the stairway and then go through the door. Once inside, you’ll see a steel door with a window. Ring the buzzer next to the window and someone will come to the door to help you.

I’m not even sure now that I was even listening; all I know is he lost me after,Go to the end of this corridor”.

The corridor was dimly lit, everything about this place reeked with gloom. As I opened the door, I could feel its weight, resist me pulling the doorknob. It felt like someone was on the other side, trying to prevent me from entering; but I managed to open it. I heard the loud thud as the door closed behind me. I walked into a poorly lit corridor with faded yellow brick walls; the concrete floor didn’t attempt to hide its barren look. There was nothing about this place that welcomed visitors. I really didn’t want to be here but I had no choice; there were no volunteers when we were told that someone needed to come and identify the body of my brother. Emotionally, everyone was on life support. I’d seen dead bodies before but they were always someone else’s relative; their life never mattered to me. It was different this time.

It was so eerily quiet until I rang the buzzer to interrupt the silence. Every moment seemed to slice into infinity, stretching out the time, until I pressed my finger against the buzzer again. Finally, a Black man arrived, looking through the window at me and opening the door.

What’s the name?

The question was cold and lacking any emotion. I looked at the empty expression on his bearded face, his brown eyes staring at me as if to ask, what do you want?

My answer was hesitant. I didn’t forget where I was, but I wasn’t certain what to say.

I’m here for my brother.

It was as if I expected him to go tell my brother, "Someone wants to see you."

My thoughts were tattered, up to this point I didn’t feel any emotions, but I would soon discover what was hidden just below the surface of my life. I gave him my brother’s name and the loud metal door clanged shut while he disappeared behind it.

It was only minutes but it seemed much more like an hour as he returned pushing a steel table, a white cloth covered the outlined shape of a body. He motioned for me to walk to the left and I stopped by a window. At that moment, I wondered, why am I standing here? I wanted to get out of there but my feet wouldn’t move. Did I expect to see my brother walk up to me and smile? He slid the window back and asked me,

Are you ready?

I nodded, not conscious of the bobbing motion of my head, consenting for him to proceed. He pulled the cloth back and there was my brother; lying quietly as though he was sleeping. I wanted to call his name as if I could somehow wake him from this slumber; but his eyelids were frozen. I looked at his body and saw the entry wounds from the gunshots and the facial scars from being beaten. I stood there in the silence of this naked corridor, staring at his lifeless body; time for me seemed to stop.

Random moments of our lives flashed through my mind, as though it were a slide show; years reduced to brief moments of the bond he and I shared. Words were trapped inside me. Did I think that by not saying anything he really wasn’t dead? Finally, my eyes moved from the body of my brother, looking at the face of the attendant. There were no words to exchange, the up and down motion from my head was the only confirmation he needed. He slid the white cloth over my brother’s head and wheeled him away.

I stood there surrounded by those bare walls of brick, it was over so quickly; I stood alone in the silence of my thoughts.

I don’t know how people deal with death, we are all so different. But laying there on that table, I saw something that attendant couldn’t see; I saw the lifeless body of my brother, someone whom I hugged, laughed with, played with, ate with and slept with as a child. King David said this about his son after learning he was dead:

But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.1

I think about Jesus, and how God must have felt as Christ hung there in the silence on the cross. How conflicted God must have felt as,

Jesus called out with a loud voice,Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.When he had said this, he breathed his last.2

How it must have pained God as they laid the body of Christ in that tomb. Until finally, on the third day, the Son of God rose from the dead. How it must have pleased the Father that Jesus rose from the dead, fulfilling what had been set in motion before you or I ever existed.

We, who call on the name of Jesus, wait in hope for His return. We believe He will show up, not just in the end time,

…for He Himself has said,I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,3

We are unlike those who have no interest in Christ. They are like that attendant in the morgue; performing the ritual task of a job. But if they knew who Jesus is, their whole outlook would change. No matter what you face in life, Christ will show up to get you over, above and beyond your circumstances. I've put my life in His hands. I've seen Him show up. He's done it for me; He'll show up for you.

“ 'Men of Galilee,' they said,why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ ”4

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.5

Heavenly Father,

You are the great I AM. There is nothing too hard for You. You are holy, just, righteous and true. You have written Your laws in our hearts and put Your Spirit in our lives. Who are we to receive such love and kindness from You? Your grace is beyond measure and Your love knows no end. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Lord, You Show Up, always when I call, when I need You, You are there for me. Thank You Lord for showing up, always and forever. Amen.


Footnotes:
  1. 2 Samuel 12:23, NIV
  2. Luke 23:46, NIV
  3. Hebrews 13:5,NASB
  4. Acts 1:11,NIV
  5. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, NIV
References:
  1. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. Biblegateway.com


Friday, November 5, 2010

Overcoming Obstacles: God’s Plan for Me

Joseph thrown in a pit by his brothers, image courtesy of applesaucekids.com
I remember when I was working in a job that didn’t pay much and really had no future, but it helped keep food on my family’s table. There were a mixture of people I worked alongside from various backgrounds; I liked them all. One lady, who was much older than me, arrived to work each day with her bible in hand. She was a person who often talked about Jesus to her co-workers; some of whom would simply laugh and make light of her. Whenever she spoke to me I listened intently to her words, it was a time of new beginnings for me, in so many new areas of my life. I was a Christian, husband and father. Looking back at that time, I now realize how much I really didn’t know about the Lord, but what little I knew, I trusted and believed God. I remember reading about Joseph and how despite some really terrible things that occurred in his life, God still blessed and prospered him. I saw Joseph as a man who recognized opportunity. I identified with that aspect of his life; I looked for God to give me opportunity.

So here I was working in a dead-end job, but I believed that I was there only temporarily; that just as he had done for Joseph, God would open the door of opportunity for me. The time came when my manager was promoted to another area of the organization, the Software Programming Department. I remember wishing him well and asking him to remember me if an opportunity for a junior programmer opened. He said he would. I did this because I read how Joseph asked Pharaoh’s cupbearer to:

...keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house.1

Like Joseph, I expected God to open for me a door of opportunity by using someone else as my facilitator. I shared this belief with that Christian woman on my job, expecting her to stand in agreement with me. Instead, she informed me that what I said was, “Impossible.” She said that, “Nothing like this had ever happened in all the years she worked in this place.” As I listened to her share these words confirmed in her by many years of experience, I’d come to a crossroad in my life. I could believe her and give up my vision of something better, or I could continue to believe that God would open the door of my opportunity. I chose to believe and trust what God had revealed to me in the life of Joseph. I remember thinking that,

This woman doesn’t know me, why should I allow her to define my life’s future?

Sometime later, a position did open up in the Software Programming Department, my former manager (Titus), remembered me and recommended me for the position. I was called in for an interview, and I grabbed that opportunity with every fiber within me; believing that the position was already mine.

Looking back at that time in my life, I appreciate now (much more than I did back then) that God creates opportunities for His children.

Back then, I blindly looked at scripture and appropriated it to my own life. I believed God could and would do anything for me. I looked at every obstacle as an opportunity for God to establish victory in my life. I read something recently which talked about the American culture and how we’re so focused on winning. Vince Lombardi, one of the coaching pillars of professional football once said,

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing.2

This mentality seems to permeate our culture and society in a way that dictates that everyone and everything that stands in our way must be defeated and vanquished. A sort of philosophy that insists, I must have victory, it’s my God given right as an American!

In examining how I overcome obstacles, it is imperative that I understand to some degree, God’s plan for me. I say this because I have come to accept the sovereignty of God. I accept it because I have come to realize that God does as He chooses and not at my bidding. Just as God provided Joseph with a door of opportunity to be released from prison, God allowed circumstances to occur in Joseph’s life that caused him to be imprisoned in the first place. This was part of God’s plan for Joseph.

I wonder what Joseph was thinking when his brothers threw him into that pit. Did he see himself in God's plan for Joseph or did he see himself stuck in a pit?

What were his thoughts as his brothers stood around mocking him for being a dreamer and favored son? Did he ask himself, "Why did this happen to me?" or did he remind himself to trust in the Lord my God.

I believe that just as I can overcome an obstacle by faithfully trusting in God, I also believe I can overcome an obstacle by trusting in God to enable me to endure what I face. The outcome is no longer the object to me; it is faithfully trusting in God. God may give me the victory in the heat of battle or God may give me the grace to endure the race; it is His sovereign choice. It is so incredibly amazing to me as I try to comprehend that God exists outside the parameters of time. What occurs today in my life has always been known to God, just as all of my tomorrows are known by Him.

I know now that God has a plan for my life, a purpose for my living. This then gives me awareness and faith that in an infinite realm of possible occurrences, God already knows the outcome; and He is capable of handling any outcome I face. The real question is:

Am I capable of trusting my life in His hands, no matter how His plan for me unfolds?

I’m learning to appreciate this aspect of God even more because:

…He gives us more grace…3

“…'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.4

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.5

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.6

"The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, 'Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,' "7

My Lord and God,

I marvel with joy at the measure of grace You pour upon our lives. You knew us before the worlds were formed, and to each of us, You establish a purpose and plan for our lives. I want to live in that purpose and walk in Your plan. Your grace is sufficient because it is unmeasurable; my life overflows with Your amazing grace. Often we hear the words,
"Impossible" and "That can never happen!" These are mere words, the sum of which can never define or defy You. Whether it is Your plan for me to overcome or to endure, I choose to trust You with my life; totally and completely. I have found freedom in You. You give me such joy and peace, saying, "Thank You" seems so miniscule. You know our hearts, You pierce our thoughts, and You know the gratitude we express to You. Again, I say, "Thank You, my Lord and God." Amen.


Footnotes:
  1. Genesis 40:14, NASB
  2. Famous quote by, Vince Lombardi, Head Coach, Green Bay Packers, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. James 4:6, NIV
  4. 2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV
  5. 1 John 4:4, NIV
  6. Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV
  7. Isaiah 14:24, NASB
References:
  1. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. Biblegateway.com


Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Mind of a Conqueror

Joshua: the mind of a conqueror, Image courtesy of godsacres.org

I’ve been thinking about Joshua and Caleb this week. Specifically, I’ve been reminded by the Holy Spirit that although an obstacle may loom larger than life, an obstacle does not tower over God. Joshua and Caleb had the mind of a conqueror because they both believed nothing was greater than God. Moses sent twelve men to the land of promise, each was assigned to analyze, assess, and evaluate the level of effort needed to take possession of land promised to the nation of Israel by God. Twelve of those men came back and reported that the land offered the things to which God had spoken of, a land that:

…certainly does flow with milk and honey1

But ten of those men also said:

…the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan.2

This is an example of how obstacles appear larger that they really are. Our eyes will cause us to exaggerate and believe things we see, even when the truth echoes before us. Caleb (one of the twelve) responded by saying,

We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.3

Why after all the things God had done for these people did ten of these men reach a place of doubt, worry, anxiety and fear?

I think that these ten men looked not to God, but measured themselves against the people who inhabited the Promised Land. In Egypt, these men were slaves. They had a slave mentality. Even though God delivered them from their Egyptian oppressors, parted the Red Sea, fed them bread from heaven, provided them with meat and water, led them with pillar of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, they still considered themselves as slaves. It’s the reason I believe they kept making references to how good they had it in Egypt; making bricks!

I believe that we embrace our past because we fear the future; even if that past was the worst possible experience we’ve ever had. Why does a person stay in a dead-end job? What keeps a co-dependent dependent? What makes a person see the worst possible thing in their life as something to hold on to? Why does a person find it so easy to say, “I’m a failure” rather than saying, “I’ll face this challenge by trusting God for my success”?

How often do the words, “I can’t”, “I’ll never”, “It’s hopeless”, and “What’s the use” come from your mouth?

Have you ever found yourself singing or (those who don’t sing) humming a tune in your head that somehow doesn’t want to go away? Sometimes, it’s just a catchy phrase such as, “You’ve got mail”, “Not going anywhere”, “What’s in your wallet?” or “Bags fly free”. We hear it and then subconsciously it begins to loop in our mind, constantly repeating; again and again.

The same thing appears to happen when I repeat messages that somehow reinforce that I’m incapable of achieving anything. Instead of saying these words repeatedly, I must choose to say something that gives me faith, joy, contentment and hope. I’m not talking about a commercial where I claim to have the knowledge of a skilled surgeon just because I slept in a certain hotel. No, just saying, “I’m a surgeon” one hundred times, doesn’t make me one. But why are the words, “I'll never...”, so believable to me? What if I began to remind myself of who I am, who I belong to, and who is on my side?

I am a follower of Christ. I confess my faith and trust in Him daily, and yet, something happens when I’m faced with A Problem. I transform it into My Problem, volunteering myself for this duty. I do this even though the words, “the battle is the Lord’s4 are in my spirit, I act as if I’m all alone. Worry, doubt, anxiety and fear are all consuming. Like a wildfire, worry, doubt, anxiety and fear consume me until I’m a living example of worry, doubt, anxiety and fear. I sacrificially offer myself in an effort to appease it, but after being consumed, all that’s left is a discouraged shell of someone who feels helpless and hopeless.

I realize now why the scripture says,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert.5

I believe this means to throw worry, doubt, anxiety and fear off myself and direct them toward God. What’s the first thing you do when you enter your home? You remove a coat, jacket or sweater; tossing it to a familiar place. Perhaps it’s those shoes you’ve worn all day. Maybe it’s a hat or scarf you remove. You’ve done it so many times, that it becomes a subconscious act. Whatever it is, you don’t continue to wear it because you recognize it’s unnecessary; you’re home, a place of comfort and security. I believe God wants me to have that attitude about Him; He’s my shelter, my spiritual home of comfort and security. It is here that I must remove (cast off) all my cares (worry, doubt, anxiety and fear), and direct them to God.

Why? God cares about me, totally and completely.

So only two of the twelve men (Joshua and Caleb) recognized that the physical appearance of those who lived in the Promised Land didn’t mean defeat, they dared to say,

…and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, 'The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us--a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.' ”6

They understood that the LORD was with them. The LORD would empower them to achieve victory. They understood that when you look at an obstacle with the natural eye, defeat appears imminent, but when I look through the eyes of Christ, that obstacle becomes a stepping stone to victory. Stop carrying around your cares (worry, doubt, anxiety and fear); have the mind of a conqueror, a spiritual conqueror.

Cast them, throw them off; give them to the LORD.

Remember, your obstacle has no protection from God.

Remind yourself that, the LORD is with you.

Do not be afraid of what opposition you face.

Do you want to be a spiritual conqueror?

Stop saying what you can’t do and begin reminding yourself what God can do!

Believe and trust God…Be all you can be in Christ…be a conqueror!

...we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.7

Dear LORD,

You give us Your grace in abundance. In all things we are more than conquerors through Christ. I am confident in You. I acknowledge that the obstacles I face have no protection from You, You are with me, I will not fear what is before me. The realization that You are God and there is none like You gives me both joy and peace. Bless our faith so that we may bless and encourage others, pointing them to You. We can do nothing without You LORD. I bless and exalt Your Name, which is above every name. I thank You for the joy and peace the Holy Spirit gives me. It is written that, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." Your grace abounds in us O LORD. Thank You. Amen.


Footnotes:
  1. Numbers 13:27, NIV
  2. Numbers 13:28-29, NIV
  3. Numbers 13:30, NIV
  4. 1 Samuel 17:47,NASB
  5. 1 Peter 5:7-8, NIV
  6. Numbers 14:7-9, NIV
  7. Romans 8:36-39, NIV
References:
  1. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. Biblegateway.com

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I’m Not Giving Out, Not Giving In, and Not Giving Up

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace with the Son of God, image courtesy of Lavista Church of Christ
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king,O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’ ”1

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.2

I was just sharing with those closest to me, how often I’ve failed; any of you who’ve said the same words know what I’m talking about. I use to despise failure. I viewed it as a reflection of who I was, not an inability to accomplish something. I use to think it would be better to never fail; just have a string of successes. This was because I wanted others to look favorably upon me.

I never looked at failure as success.

I never recognized the purpose of being tested. Because of this, I never considered testing a good thing.

Oh but things are different now baby! I’m a new creation in Christ:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!3

I’m in agreement with God because I take joy now when I’m tried. I consider it an opportunity not only for spiritual growth and development, but it’s also an opportunity for God to prove Himself to me. When I say, “It’s an opportunity for God to prove Himself to me”, I really mean through me. I believe God provides me with opportunities to consider it an occasion to rejoice that God and I will partner, demonstrating, He is God of my life. I realize now that this occurs even when I fail, He is still God.

Most of us love to hear about success. Failure? Not so much. I’ve read this passage in Daniel numerous times (as I’m sure many others have too), but I’ve learned something which has evaded me until now.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t care about the outcome of their decision; they were fully committed to their decision.

I don’t mean to say they didn’t want God to save them from the fiery death they were threatened with; yes, they wanted to be spared that kind of death. But they understood that the decision to save them was in God’s hands, not their own. They yielded their decision-making to God.

They could have given out to the threat of death. They could have given in to king Nebuchadnezzar. They could have given up on God.

But they didn’t!

They determined that no matter what happened, they would trust in God for the outcome. We know what happens next, king Nebuchadnezzar becomes furious with their answer. He orders the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were tied up and thrown into the blazing furnace. The furnace was so hot that the flames from the fire killed the soldiers who were ordered to throw them in.

I would imagine that the king felt pretty confident in himself, believing that these three had failed to make the right decision. That’s how many look at you when things go bad.

They say,You’re a failure!

There are those who never let you forget that you’re a failure; they like to remind you just in case you’ve forgotten. They remember you back when…

Nobody had ever stood up to this king before, and lived. He had that kind of power; he used his power of intimidation. But these men weren’t like all the Yes men the king was accustomed to standing before him. These men submitted to a higher authority than an earthly king.

They were obedient to God.

I have learned such strength of conviction from these three men. To be able to say, I know God can save me from this terrible ordeal but even if He doesn’t save me from this, I’m ready to go through it, that He, Almighty God may be exalted and praised!

This wasn’t just someone talking the talk, these men walked the talk.

So I know that God is no respecter of persons and when my opportunity comes, and it will surely come, I’m ready to walk the talk. I’m not being cavalier about this because trials aren’t a game. I know I can fail in my trial but God never fails. I’m trusting God.

I’m reminded of the actor in the Allstate insurance commercials. His booming voice evokes assurance, confidence and security when he says, “You’re in good hands with Allstate.

But the God we worship doesn’t emulate assurance, confidence and security.

He is my assurance.

He is my confidence.

He is my security.

I’m going to shout for joy when I’m tried because my trials produce endurance in me, and that’s a good thing. It means that in time, my failures will become fewer and fewer.

It means, I’m not giving out to my trial.

It means, I’m not giving in to fear.

It means, I’m not giving up on God.

I’ll trust Him like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

I’ll trust Him like Abraham when God told him to offer up his son on Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham would worship Jehovah Jireh.

I’ll trust Him like David standing before Goliath with a confidence that trusted in Immanuel, David knew, God is with me.

Can you trust God?

Don’t give out, don’t give in, and don’t give up on God.

He hasn’t given up on you.

Jesus,

Thank you for being the King of kings and Lord of lords. You are Jehovah Jireh, my provider. You are Immanuel, God with us. You've promised to never leave me or forsake me; I believe that Lord. When I face my trials, I will rejoice because I know you want to produce endurance in me. You want me to be confident that in You, I can go all the way. Like the song says, "No matter what tomorrow brings, I'm going all the way!" Thank You Jesus for giving me confidence in You. You conquered sin, death, hell, the grave and everything else. Every knee must bow to You the risen Saviour and Lord. I trust You Lord, You are my strength and shield. Amen.


Footnotes:
  1. Daniel 3:16-18, NIV
  2. James 1:2-3, NASB
  3. 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV
References:
  1. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6