Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Swing of Solitude

In the back of my house, I can enjoy two beautiful acres of land with its beautiful scenery.  It’s not just the scenery I enjoy; it’s the beautiful exchange of love with God.   I cherish those quiet moments alone on the outside swing; I just simply talk to Jesus.  With being a wife and mother, I don’t have a quiet place of solitude within my house, so I enjoy my swing.  I admit I need to go there more often; life can be completely overwhelming at times.  Right now, life is beyond overwhelming but my heart is fixed on the anchor of my soul.   Although I can’t fix the illness of my father, my heart is fixed on the One who can, my Healer-Jesus Christ.  His voice calls me with desire, His love draws me with friendship, and His truth directs my steps to a fulfilled life. What a joy to walk with Jesus, my dearest friend, and lover of my soul!
     One night, as I sat on the swing, I started to reflect on the metaphor, the swing is only hooked on a single, strong, and very long branch.  As I swing, I cry out to the Lord with all my heart.  I allow Him to search me, try me, and love me.  Sometimes, I just go there to worship Him.  Nevertheless, the swing is only held by one branch, so my life is held by the true God.  My Heavenly Father is strong; His right arm will sustain me, protect me, and keep me.  As I meditate on His Word, I gain the spiritual nourishment needed to uplift me. 
  a388854fdff9690141d7b29217e0bdc1_1.jpg image by Moodester     We all need places of solitude, but the only person who can provide it is Jesus.  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3 Peace is a promised is we trust in Him but we must keep it on Him.  Our hearts grow anxious from listening to the voice of fear, this isn’t God’s voice.  Anxiety causes disharmony of focus, allows fear to set in, and the enemy an opportunity to destroy us.  A sound mind can only be found by removing the fear and being saturated in love.
     Love directs the heart to the refuge, it runs into for shelter.  Fear can’t invade a heart who’s confident in God’s love or who they are in Christ.  Fear only brings torture; love brings a peace from the cold, wet, terrible storm.  Dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, a beautiful solitude place, is only found through trusting Him.  God is present always; He is our helper, strength but our refuge.
     Satan will try to torture the mind with voices of doubt, shame, and accusations.  Sometimes he will speak fear into our lives to cause our heart to panic.  For example, “Did you hear what the doctor said? “There is no hope.”  Or he will say, “No one cares for you, this situation can never change.”  All of these lies are defeated by the blood of Christ; He paid it all for your peace, healing, and salvation.  “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
     He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuged and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2.  Right now, I don’t know what you are going through: marriage troubles, financial troubles, or a call from the doctor’s office.  May I encourage you to dwell in the presence of God, run quickly to Him!  Although the enemy seems powerful, he is defeated.  Sometimes the circumstances look horrific, God is magnificent.  God will take care of your troubles, as long as you dwell with Him.  Nothing is more powerful than God, absolutely nothing.

God will nestle you!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Heart of Praise

  The radio was playing one of my favorite songs, "Awesome God," by Rich Mullins, so naturally I started to sing along. I just started praising the Lord with all of my heart, I didn't really care who was there. On the other hand, my family felt like a captive audience with me in the car. The uproar of their complaining was trying to remove me from a precious moment. As you have guessed, I can't sing at all. Nails dragged on a chalk board probably sound sweeter to everyone's ear in comparison to my voice. So, my husband's comment didn't really surprise me, yet it wouldn't stop me from singing. He said, "Honey, you are so tone deaf." I don't believe my husband was trying to hurt my feelings but stating a harsh fact. Our roles in ministry are very different from what most people expect. My husband is a worship leader who has the ability to lead others in song. It's wonderful to watch the Lord's anointing on my husband, Ryan, who is a joy to work with in ministry. My gifts of the Spirit are teaching, preaching, and writing. So, we are complete opposites but we balance each other in our gifts and abilities to assist the body of Christ. However, I still get a kick out of the reaction of people during our first moments in new churches. It's funny but mostly people will come up and ask me to sing. I lovingly respond, "If you want me to sing, you might as well leave the doors open because a stampede is going to come out the door." As members of the body of Christ, we can sing praises to the Lord regardless of our singing ability. God takes pleasure in hearing our hearts praise Him. All of creation has the ability to praise Him on earth or in Heaven because He alone is God. Nevertheless, we need to understand the importance of praise in the Christian life. What is praise? Why do we praise the Lord? What's the difference between worship and praise? What are the benefits of praise? 
     First, praise means various things: to bless, harvest celebration, to play music, an expression of thanks. The words of the Greek and Hebrew words are quite different for the word "praise" (The Strong's Complete Dictionary of Bible Words). So, basically praise means to express thanks to God with an outburst of song. Scripture says, "To make a joyful noise unto the Lord." In other words, it’s a loud noise. Does God really like loud music? Yes, he does. Soft music can be used as well. Keep in mind; it's not about the "style" of music but the heart of the one singing. Recently in different churches the style of music is being changed to attract younger people. The older generations of saints are used to praising God out of a hymnal. While the younger generations prefer to have worship songs. We can't get caught up on the style of praise music otherwise we miss the importance of it all-to praise the Lord!
     Personally, I enjoy all different styles whether it's a hymn or a worship song, so it doesn't really matter to me. Throughout the Old Testament most of the celebrations involved with different instruments, dancing, and it was a loud sound. It was a celebration to express the joy of being redeemed by God. In the New Testament, praise was used to bring thanks to God. Anyone who has been washed by the blood should be able to praise God for his/her redemption. If someone complains about this, I question if they truly experienced God's redeeming love. Just being redeemed should place a song in one’s heart. Second, the reason we praise the Lord is to draw near to Him. Next, we must understand the different between praise and worship to understand their significance. Again, praise is the expression of thanks to God in an outburst expression. Worship is defined as "service" according to the New Bible Dictionary. We are to fall prostrate before the Lord with fear and wonder. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom according to scripture. We are to reverence Him in our hearts as we worship. We worship in spirit and in truth. Finally the benefits of praising the Lord are as follows: we keep our hearts near God, it can be used in spiritual warfare, and it will keep our lives focused on what’s important.
"In commanding us to glory Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him." C. S. Lewis
Sadly, many people come to church to just sing a song or a hymn to give their weekly service. They will complain about the bad sound or missed notes due to their incorrect focus, the result is leaving unhappy, burdened, and broken. As my college president, Maurice Lednecky, said during our first chapel service, "You will either be one of two types of people in this chapel: You will be a worshipper or criticize those who do."
     Nevertheless, we need to praise God daily within our lives so our focus stays on what's important. No matter what circumstances we are facing, we need to praise God with a joyful song. A beautiful illustration of this truth is demonstrated through the lives of Paul and Silas in Acts16:16-40, because they are arrested for their ministry. A woman who was a fortune teller followed their daily activity in the city. Apparently, she made a very good living but she never saw the profits because she was a slave. For many days, she continued to follow Paul and Silas but she was distracting the people from hearing the Gospel. She would shout to the people trying to prevent God's work from being accomplished. See the fortune teller was demon possessed, so the evil spirit within her tried to destroy them. As the passage records, she wasn't a welcome committee but a pain in the neck. Finally, Paul couldn't stand her disruption to his life and ministry. So, he cast the devil out of her. The city officials were confronted about Paul and Silas, so they were arrested. If being arrested wasn't humiliating enough, the officials ordered for them to be stripped and beaten for her deliverance. While in prison, Paul and Silas are watched very carefully and their feet were placed in stocks. Naturally, it would be easier to complain but the hearts of these men couldn't be chained down. Paul and Silas did something completely profound in their circumstances; they prayed to God and praised the Lord. Look at verses 25-26, "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners where listening to them." Suddenly, there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open and everybody's chains came loose."
Circumstances can arise in our lives to crush us to our knees but praise to God will crush them beneath us.
Everyone will face circumstances in their lives but they do have a purpose to teach us. We will walk out of the circumstances with a greater perspective of God, stronger reliance on God, and greater faith to stay true to God. Our circumstances will always change in our lives but God never changes. He is always faithful to keep His promises to us. The Devil will try to keep your focus on all of the impossible tasks set before you. Always keep in mind, praise will always drive the Devil out and it will allow God to flood your heart with peace. If you remember the story in the Old Testament, King Saul was being tortured by an evil spirit for his disobedience to God. So, he called for someone to place music softly so it would drive the evil spirit away. Guess who the wonder musician was? It was David who was going to be the next king of Israel. David was considered the man after God's own heart not just for his repentant heart but his heart of praise. Throughout the book of Psalms, David writes some of the most poetic and powerful praise songs to God. His heart always expressed his devotion to God, dependence on the strength of God, and his deepest desires. In David's darkest hours, he would encourage himself through songs of praise. It always lifted his heart to find strength, peace, and the ability to trust in who God is.
    What are you going through right now? What is weighing heavy upon your heart to cause your spirit to be down? Give it to the Lord; He doesn't want you to worry about all of this. I encourage you to follow David's path to recognize your discouragement and defeat it by placing your hope in God.
"Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why do disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Manna Or Maggots

As I drove to work this morning, my heart was very burdened for my family.  Since I run the finances, I am completely aware of what comes in and goes out.  It’s seems as the children have grown, so have their needs and wants.  I admit it’s very hard to keep telling my children, “Not now but maybe later” or the next paycheck we can.”  As parents, we always try to give our children a special treat or something special, it’s one of the greatest joys of seeing their smile.  We love them, so we desire to give good gifts to them.  During their early childhood, I would weekly do something special for them, a new toy or game.  Or we would go out to eat once a week; it was just fun family time.  Sadly, a few years ago our family suffered numerous financial hardships: my husband had to have surgery; I got laid off, a flood in our house, and eventually losing all we had.  So, we are rebuilding our lives, it’s hasn’t been easy.
 CryBaby1.jpg image by kloverpanda     While on the road, the tears came rushing down my face, I couldn’t contain it.  Since I was alone, I could really cry out to God.  I mean really “cry out.”  All I could mutter out, “Jesus, I just can’t carry all of these burdens anymore.”  “I just can’t.”  As I continued to drive, the Lord spoke to me, It’s time to give it to me, completely.”  Although I have entrusted the Lord with my salvation, it’s seems I struggle with trusting Him for the daily manna.  As I quietly waited on the Lord, a song came on the radio by Nicole C. Mullin, “My Redeemer Lives” which quickly reminded me “Who” is in control of my Life.  As I listened, I was reassured of a precious truth, “God spoke the world into existence, so He is adequate to take care of me.”  

 If you study the journey of the children of Israel to get into the Promised Land, it was actually should have been a seven day journey.  Instead, it took forty years for them to arrive but God took care of their needs.   God will always remain faithful to His Word to His children.  Keep in mind, the children of Israel grew impatient, complained, and rebelled against God.  Yet, God never denied the children of Israel their needs.   
      Deuteronomy 29:5, “During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.”
As they journey into the desert, the children of Israel faced hunger.  So, the people cried against Moses and Aaron, so the people were anxious.  So, they attacked their leadership and God for their lack of substance.  Also, they desired the past substance of Egypt.  Instead of trusting God, they attack God.  Interesting, the one who delivered them from bondage is being attacked for lack of provision or care.  While being attacked, the Lord advises Moses of His plan, He would provide it miraculous.  Daily the people were to gather enough for the day: morning would be manna and quail in the evening.  Only on the sixth day were they to gather more, to prepare for the Sabbath. (Exodus 16)     
 Deuteronomy 16:18 “And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.  Each one gathered as much as needed.”  In other words, NO ONE WENT WITHOUT, EVERYONE WAS SATISFIED, God took care of them.  As they daily gathered, they were not to “save” anything.  Some disobeyed, so they got maggots. 
     As we read the story of the Israelites, it’s easy to shake our heads, “Why didn’t they just trust God?”  “How could they doubt the One who miraculous delivered them?”  Well, we do the same.  Instead of trust God’s word, we get angry with a delay but it comes on time.  Or we panic to try to solve all of our problems, so we get “maggots.” (More problems)  As I write this, I am reminding myself, “My Redeemer Lives!”  Jesus, the One who miraculous delivered my soul, He will provide for my needs.  Yes, He will provide for me, even when I grumbled.  He is my Shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Questions Have Purpose

sunrise3rdJuly2.jpg image by esdee_23     As the sun rose this morning, so did God’s faithfulness.  At this moment, it’s only thing I can hold or trust.  Life brings about so many changes, some I don’t agree with it.  Nevertheless, God’s plans can’t be stopped by man although I admit at times, I just don’t understand Him.  I admit, I have scratched my head and asked, “Lord, what are you doing?” 
     What’s so precious about being a child of God is the complete honest communication with Him.  Is it wrong to have questions before God?  One of the books of the Bible is full of questions to God, Habakkuk.  Questions are necessary to sharpen our minds, see another point of view, and find solutions.  As the body of Christ, we need to be able to discuss different thoughts, challenge a deeper walk with Christ, and encourage our daily walk.  Life’s pressures can seem overwhelming; we can lose focus of the truth.  Other times, we just need someone to share our burdens and pray with us. 
        Although we have questions, we need to seek the TRUTH, Jesus Christ.  Our minds must be transformed by the Word, saturated by the Spirit, and protected with all diligence.  According to the Word of God, we are to guard our hearts.  Why are we to guard our hearts? 
     Proverbs 22:5 says, “In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays farm from them.
Proverbs 4:23 states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
     It’s important to guard our heart, so we guard our life.  Our spiritual lives govern our daily life whether it is family, our relationship, our jobs, or finances.  All of our daily choices need to be governed by the Word of God.  If we neglected to follow God’s Word in any particular area, we allow the enemy an opportunity to place a foothold.  Understandably, we are growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, we will always be transforming from glory to glory.  The most important aspect, we need to be yield or submissive to the Potter.  As He loving molds us into His image, we must be willing to change, repentant, and willing to be disciplined.  Maybe this is why David was considered the “man after God’s heart”. (Acts 13:22)  David was willing to do everything God wanted Him to do.
     A rebellious heart will never be controlled until it’s submissive to the reign of Christ.  It’s only through Christ our heart and minds are protected and at peace. Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” 

God's Word never changes but
it does change the heart.

     As I started my day, my heart was reflected on my college days since my institution is going to be transforming or no longer present.  I admit, my heart is grieved over it but my heart will trust in God’s plan.  All of the precious moments in chapel, making wonderful friends, and learning all aspects of ministry, I will never forget.  All of my professors challenged my walk with Christ to make it deeper, recognize my responsibility, but realize it’s eternal.  At Central Bible College, I was being equipped to become a minister for the Gospel of Christ whether the moments were good or bad.  Life will always challenge us; it’s the moments to allow the Truth to shine the brightest.  So, whatever God decides, I will follow His leading.  My heart has many questions but my heart’s focused on what’s true-the Word of God.  It has never changed, although it changed me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Looking For Daddy

There is a special joke between my husband and me about our family. Right after I had Caleb, our third child, I asked Ryan if I could have one more child. Daily, I would tease him about having an odd number of children for certain events like amusement parks, filling the mini-van full, and to play volleyball. Well, no matter how persistent I was, the answer was always the same, “NO”. So, I finally said if you don’t want to have another child, we need to get a dog. It will complete our family but Ryan wasn’t absolutely thrilled with the idea. So, finally after a horrible fight about it, we showed up to the SPCA.

     Two days before we arrived, a farmer brought in a litter of 12 puppies that were young enough to adopt. All of the puppies were a mixture of Labrador and Pit Bull but my heart was attracted to the runt of the litter. All of the other puppies were pulling on his ears, jumping on him, but he didn’t respond. He was just so sweet and still, I knew I found him. After getting the attendants attention, we were placed in a small room to see how he would respond. My daughter, who was four at the time, was so funny she believed the puppy was going to eat her. She ran around the room as the puppy loving chased her. Finally, Ryan picked up our daughter into his arms to calm her down. I grabbed the puppy to bring him close to her. Just at that moment, with a lick on her cheek she was hooked.

     So, we went to the counter to pay for the puppy and the cashier was so upset. She called for another co-worker to come say “Good-bye to Noah”. She told me they enjoyed dressing Noah in clothes because he was so gentle - it was also confirmation to us, Noah was perfect for us. All of my children are named out of the Bible, so I knew Noah fit just fine.

     Well, the rest of the story, Noah loved all of us but he is very attached to the one who didn’t want a dog, my husband. Every evening around 5:30, Noah will sit on the couch to look out the window. He doesn’t move at all. He is so fixed on the front window of the house because he can see the gate. Noah will have his paws right in front with his head on the pillow, so loving and eager to see my husband. As Ryan’s car appears in the window, Noah will stand up and shake his tail and in the moment the door opens, Ryan is nearly knocked down with kisses.  One evening while Noah was sitting at the window, I had a wonderful thought. Does the church eagerly and loving wait for the coming of the Lord? Or does the church even anticipate it? Well, the Lord is coming! We may not know the day or time but rest assured he is coming.

     Many people are going to be caught unaware, just like the days of Noah. (No, I am not referring to my dog). According to the Word, people will go about their daily lives, routines and dreams. Some couples will be preparing their wedding day, others getting drunk with wine, and some mocking the day approaching. But suddenly, the clouds will split and the Lord of Lord’s will shine in all His glory. The Bride will be united with the groom, so get ready church. The banquet prepared will make Hollywood blush, jealous, and dreading this day.

     2 Peter 3:1-17 completely supports the day of the Lord’s return. Peter express many will mock us, be filled with evil desires and mock the truth of the Lord’s return. The mockers forget that God has ALWAYS kept His Word and He is the One who formed the earth. And, God’s time clock doesn’t run like man’s wrist watch, it’s very fast. The only reason for the delay is the aching within His heart to give time for repentance.  Nevertheless, the day of the Lord will be like a thief in the night. This is a unique metaphor to express this truth, who is prepared for a thief? Who wants a thief to come? No one desires to be robbed but if someone experiences it, this day could destroy their life. There is no peace to be found, it’s all gone. My friends, the day of the Lord is approaching but the Bride should be eagerly waiting.

     On my wedding day, all I thought about was seeing Ryan. As everyone assisted me to get the wedding prepared, my heart yearned for my future husband. The anticipation was very strenuous but my heart rested in our love the moment I saw him. With each step, my heart was fixed on being near the love of my life. I couldn’t wait to be swept up in the arms of my groom. Does the day of the Lord give you peace or fear? It doesn’t have too.
As Peter 3:14 records, “So then, dear friends, since you ARE LOOKING forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.”

Go to Jesus, the groom, who eagerly awaits your arrival with love and expectation. He has prepared a place for you to dwell with Him. It’s all paid for and from what I heard, it’s breathtaking.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Purple Socks

     Since I was a little girl, purple has always been my favorite color.  Purple is still feminine but it’s not so “girly” as pink.  When I think of pink, it reminds of the little girls with pig-tails and ruffles who are afraid to get dirty.  Throughout my childhood, I was a tomboy until I recognized this cute boy at school.  Only in my adolescence, I discovered make-up and curling irons.  It was a complete challenge to transform my hair but I really learned more about myself.  Something unique most probably don’t know, I enjoy looking beautiful for my husband but I enjoy getting my hands dirty.  If you want to knock down a wall of your house, remove tile, or remodel, I am your girl.  I can make a mean lasagna, bake cookies, and love to fix stuff.  Most of the major tools in my husband’s toolbox, I can advise what it is.  It’s funny though.  Although, I am married to a maintance man, I usually fix it myself; my husband’s a major procrastinator.  It’s a personality trait of his; I am trying to be patient with. 
     As I have matured, I have learned it’s not about the great hair styles or wearing mascara, it was about learning what makes me beautiful.  As I re-discovered myself, I learned a precious truth, God made me precious.  I am an original.  Although we are all different, I can still be unique.  My worship, my service, and life can still be a precious fragrance to offer God, it’s my own.
     At this moment in my life, I expected to be fulfilling God’s call upon my life.  So many nights, I have stayed awake to imagine the millions of souls who found Christ or were healed during a service.  Just in awe, of the Spirit moving so strong all who are sick start to walk, run, or see for the first time.  So, many stories I have read of past revivals or those who walked in the Spirit with such an anointing, it’s creating a hunger for a deep move of God.  Before I leave this earth, my prayer is to see God move as I have read about.  Also, to see all of God’s written promises fulfilled in my life.  What a beautiful moment, I can’t wait.
     Although I clearly know my destination, it’s the overwhelming details to get there.  When will I get there?  As my children scream in the back of the car, “Are we there yet?”  “No, so stop asking me!” “When we arrive, I will tell you.”  Our children have to trust us to arrive to the vacation destination; they can’t arrive on their abilities.  Well, it’s the same with God.  We can’t fulfill God’s desires for our lives on our own abilities; we have to ride together to the location.  God is preparing us; we have to allow Him to drive.
     Recently, I was allowing the enemy to speak a terrible lie into my heart, I was a failure.  On Facebook, letters, and some phone conversations, I have learned about my friends who are successful and fulfilling God’s call.  It seems all of the doors are opening very quickly, while I am just starting.  Yes, we shouldn’t compare ourselves but I admit it, I did.  All of the voices of insecurities, doubt, and fear started to overcome my faith.  As I started to withdraw, my dearest friend confronted me about it.  She quickly realized the lie, so I could start walking the truth.  She is a precious gem, one of God’s precious daughters.  She challenged me to write all of God’s promises or goals in my journal.  As a declaration to God, I will trust until it’s complete.
      After the morning of our conversation, I did something very daring.  My work uniform requires a certain dress code; we are to wear white socks.  Instead, of the normal daily attire, I wore my favorite purple socks, as a reminder, God’s promise is coming.  When you think of the color purple, what’s the first thing to come to mind?  When I think of purple, I think of royalty.  Will I ever be a princess?  Although I have a prince, he isn’t from a royal family.  My husband will always be the love of my life.  He will always be, “my handsome” who captured my heart. 
     Galatians 3:29, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."  Nevertheless, my heart belongs to the King of Kings, so by the blood, I am a princess.  Galatians 3:6-7, "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father".  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."  I am an heir to the throne of grace who has access to all of the richest treasures of Heaven.  The promise doesn’t become a dream until God grants it.  So, my King declared it, I wait in expectation.    
Liz Ulibarri