Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's All About the Cross

On a walk I enjoyed the gentle breeze, a time to pray, and the exercise.  Besides all the joys of the walk; it was my only means of transportation.  So, off I went to walk to complete a few errands at the store.  It’s sometimes the simplest things that can bring the greatest revelation to your life.  As all of the cars drove by with their agenda; I was able to enjoy the moment.  A moment of quietness of soul in the midst of a busy world; a world we can get so lost in.  It’s not hard to get lost in the cares of life.  Life is filled with tremendous responsibilities, relationships, and revelations of how short life is.  Nevertheless, it’s all about the journey to our destination; our eternal home.  As I continued my walk upon the busy street, I was so grateful for the “sign” of knowing I was close to my destination.  Only as I fixed my eyes upon this sign could I continue to walk to a place of rest.
 What was the “sign” my eyes were fixed upon?  It was an enormous cross standing in the ground; its truth reflected for all to see.  Regardless of what direction a car turns or a person walked on this intersection, it wasn’t hard to see this cross.  Upon my churches property is this beautiful white cross reflecting a simple truth; sadly some people are so busy to reflect upon it or stop to ask about it.  Yet, the message of Christ is displayed to the world through the cross but who is leading them? 

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  Romans 10:14

 It’s all about the cross!  We can’t find direction for our lives or eternal life without the cross.  Upon salvation we begin a wonderful relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship that’s growing in the grace and knowledge of Him.  Faith is simply taking God at His Word!  Yet, faith is what starts the journey of life with Christ.  Although this world is filled with chaos; my life doesn’t have to be.  Peace can only be found in Christ!  A peace that passes all understanding and it can’t be taken from me.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

 Our lives will not escape hardships, trials, or troubles.  It doesn’t mean I don’t trip upon the rocks or avoid dangerous obstacles but I can walk safely.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4  It’s only through keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus can we finish this journey of our faith and life.  We started our faith in Christ, so shall we finish with Christ but only if we stay focused upon his voice.  We are to walk the straight and narrow path; a path many will not choose.  So, we must be careful not to get caught up in the cares of the world or it will choke the word.  (Mark 4:19) If we desire to walk with Christ, we have to bear fruit; fruit that will last. (John 15:16)

Life is a precious gift; a gift from God.  Yet, what I do with it will be a gift I bring back to Him. “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burdens of my heart rolled away”  It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day”  (At the Cross by Issac Watts)  As this beautiful old hymn anchors the power truth of our redemption, I am so grateful the cross keeps me on the right path. 
 I have a question for you?  Are you on the right path for eternal life?  If not, it’s time to start this journey at the cross.  Even if you lost your way home, the cross will point you in the right direction.  Don’t miss this opportunity to come to Him, tomorrow isn’t promised only today is the day of salvation.    Regardless of what you have done, peace can be found.  Your past doesn’t have to trip you or hinder the life He wants to give.  Jesus Christ will not only change your life, He will walk with you always.   Keep in mind, our relationship with Christ is a journey of growth so abide in Him.  It’s only through abiding in Him can we bear fruit.  We grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, so realize it’s a relationship of love being developed.  Christ doesn’t want perfect lives; He wants us to be loving, walking in truth, and changing from glory to glory.         


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pressure of Forbidden Love

Oh, the joy of being in love!  As the person enters the room butterflies enter your stomach with their presence.  His eyes melt my heart!  As Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, many dating couples are preparing to show their love and affection upon this day.  As flowers are order, chocolate purchased, and candlelight dinners prepared to express their love to each other; it’s a remarkable tribute.   Dating can be very exciting part of your life; it’s preparing you to find the love of your life.  Yet, as my grandmother said to me, “You will get your heartbroken and you will break someone’s heart until the right one comes.”   Oh, how my grandmother was so right!  Yet, I didn’t want a marriage of longevity with no love or affection towards my spouse.  My family tree doesn’t have many successful marriages upon my father’s side of the family.  The majority of father's siblings were married two or three times ending in divorce.  Sadly, my own life was truly changed by the aftermath of my parent’s divorce even for valid reasons.  When I accepted Christ into my life, I was only twelve years old.  As I was growing up, I sought the Lord’s face about getting married.  I admit I wasn’t sure if I would be married because of God’s call upon my life.  So, if I did marry someone he had to accept my calling to either support or work with it.  If he couldn’t accept my calling; he wasn’t the right one for me.  During my dating period in college, some men wouldn’t continue to date me for this reason.  So, I would just keep praying and trusting God to bring him if it was His plan.  While in college I met my husband who I have been married to for sixteen years.  I am madly in love with the man!  Although my husband and I dated for over a year; we were teased in college for “taking things slow.”  Nevertheless, I didn't want to walk into marriage lightly.  It's a covenant I am making to my spouse and God.  
     Sadly, the devil will use any tactic to trip your life; even the opposite sex.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved or to share your life with someone.  It’s a healthy and godly desire for a man and woman to be married. God created marriage between a man and woman. (Genesis 2:18)
Now all of my children have turned into teenagers, so I am praying for God’s protection, guidance, and for their spouses.  Besides praying, modeling a godly marriage, I am teaching my children what God’s Word says.  Does God’s Word teach on dating and marriage?  Yes, it does!  One story in particular has some vital truths found in Judges 13-15.  A loving and godly couple couldn’t conceive a child for the woman was sterile. (Judges 13:2)  An angel of the Lord appears to the woman to tell she is going to have a male child.  Besides having a male child, there were certain guidelines to be followed by the mother and this child.  The mother wasn’t allowed to eat anything unclean or drink wine/fermented drink.  Also, the requirement was the same for the child who was set apart for God’s call to deliver the children of Israel from the Philistines.  In addition the child was not allowed to have a razor to cut his hair because he was a Nazirite. (See Numbers 6)  Samson’s parents desired to follow God’s instructions for the child, so they sought the Lord.  Yet, as Samson grew up to marry, he sought the hand of a Philistine woman.   (The Philistines were enemies of God who are ruling them at this moment in time)  Instead of following his parents counsel to follow God’s call upon his life and God’s Word, he yearns for someone who he can’t have.   Although this was being used by the Lord to open a door to confront the Philistines; it should have taught Samson a lesson as well. 
     Upon the wedding celebration, Samson gives a riddle to his Philistine companions.  No one is able to solve the riddle, so they coax his wife to find out.  During the whole celebration she cries, throws herself upon him, and begs for the answer.  Yet, he surrenders to her cries to release the answer.  Although Samson keeps his word to the companions; it cost his affection for his wife because of her betrayal.  Instead of being a lesson learned, Samson later falls in love with Delilah.  Judges 16:4 says, “Sometime later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah.”  Delilah was a prostitute in Gaza, an area owned by the Philistines.  So, he follows his lust to the arms of a prostitute instead of God's instruction.  As he follows his lust, he ignores God’s instruction to remain separate from wicked nations. (Deut. 7:1-4)  So as Samson followed his lust; it opened the opportunity for the enemy to trap him.
     As I was reading this chapter I was amazed how the enemy lured Samson to bondage but he didn’t see it.  His affections for Delilah blinded him into chains of bondage.  As the Philistines are aware of his weakness and his love for Delilah they prepare a trap to OVERPOWER HIM!  It wasn't just to overpower him but to subdue him.  So, the plan begins with attacking Samson at his weak spot.  Satan knows your weakness, so be aware he is cunning.  He is an angel of light who will make it pleasing to the eyes, our desires, and set a trap to place us back in bondage.  He doesn’t want to place us just back in bondage; he wants to drag our souls to his kingdom.  As the conversation of Samson’s strength unfolds, we learn how the enemy operates, so we need to pay attention.
     First, Delilah is advised to TIE HIM with seven fresh throngs that have never been dried. (Judges 16:7)   Second, Delilah is advised to TIM HIM with new ropes. (Judges 16:11)   His love for Delilah causes him to sin against his body, so he is being placed in physical bondage by the first two advances.  Also, he should have recognized “her scheme” after the first question about his strength.  It’s also interesting the enemies of Samson were also in his bedroom chambers.  Third, Delilah is advised to weave the seven braids of his hair into fabric with a loom, and tighten it with a pen.  He is compromising his mind in her lap to allow her to weave destruction.  As the pin secures his hair; he is pinning the “secret” in her hand.  When we are in love, we share intimate details of ourselves.  As we share those details, we learn about the person completely.  Yet, we shouldn’t be using those facts to bring about the destruction of someone’s character or life.  Also, no dating couple should be alone in “secret quarters” for it will cause sexual temptation to arise.  We are to FLEE youthful lusts and seek righteousness. “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.”(2 Timothy 2:22) Finally, Samson surrenders the truth of his strength to her-his vow to God.   As his hair is shaved (his vow removed) he is subdued to the enemy. 
     Love is a powerful emotion and is truly a wonderful experience.  Yet, as Christians we must be careful in our dating relationship or period of engagement not to allow our passion for someone to steal our purity for God.   (Fornication is sex outside of the marriage covenant)  According to scripture sex is forbidden until a couple (a man and woman) marry. Also, we shouldn't be dating someone who doesn't belong to Christ.  Light and darkness have nothing in common, so we can't pursue a courting or marriage relationship.  God's ways are better and the person He selects is worth waiting for.  Also, we can be dating a Christian but if God says "no" it's still wrong to disobey Him.  
     As Samson slept upon the lap of Delilah his eyes were closed to her deceptive plan.  Yet, his blinding love for Delilah entrapped his life as he slept in the enemies hands.  He was satisfied with her loving affection, closeness, and words of love.  Delilah advises that the Philistine are upon him again but this time Samson doesn’t recognize the Lord left him.  What this clearly shows any child of God can be lured away back into the arms of the world!  We are to live separate from the world’s standards, beliefs, and ways.  We can’t participate in them, WE ARE CALLED TO BE SEPARATE!  We are called to be holy! 
As Samson awakens he is captured by his enemies who overpowered him.  They GOUGED out his eyes! Why?  So, he couldn’t attack them or he couldn’t defend himself.   As the Philistines took Samson away, they took him to their kingdom.  In their kingdom, they placed his in bronze shackles and to work in their prison.  So, the devil desire is shown through the actions of the Philistines.
     Our enemies may see us fall into our weakness; it can happen.  Sadly, our enemies will mock our faith and God.  It’s true but it doesn’t mean we have to live in defeat.  We can fall back into bondage of sin; it can entrap us.  It’s only by calling upon God can we be delivered from sin and its bondage.   As Samson’s hair grew, God's remained faithful to him.  As the enemies celebrated their victory; it was going to be their destruction.  Samson had to die to himself by calling upon God to destroy his enemies; he got victory.  
However, Samson missed out on finding the love of his life because he didn’t follow God’s instructions.  Yes, he married someone but it wasn’t who God selected.  Also, he never had children.  His calling was fulfilled but his life wasn’t.  It’s something to really think about.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Never Give Up

“When is this trial going to be over?”  “Why should I pray?”  “God’s not listening to me!”  “I can’t fight these issues anymore, it’s too much!”  “Where is God?”  As the problems mount upon us, we can quickly become terrified in the situation.  So, terrified we decide to waive the white flag of defeat!  Retreat!  Well, it’s easier to wave the white flag; instead of continuing to pray. Recently a young believer approached me with a question, “If I approach God’s throne again about an issue does it show a lack of faith?”  My response, “How badly do you want an answer?” 

 When we approach the Throne Room of God in prayer, we expect an answer.  It’s not a wrong expectation; we should expect God to answer because it’s a promise of His Word.  Yet, who hasn’t had the cricket noise experience during our prayer time?  We pray with urgency, faith and read the Word but God’s presence can’t be felt or His voice is silent.  It’s very alarming to us, why does God seem distant?  Why isn’t there any response? We can't give up praying because we don't see the answer.  Daniel prayed the first time, God heard his request. Yet, it wasn't answered right away because of war in the heavens. Daniel stayed persistent in his request until the answer came, so we must do the same. 

Daniel 10:12 says, “The he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel.  Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before God, you words were heard, and I have come in response to them.”

     Is it easy to keep praying without any evidence of an answer?  No it’s not easy but that’s what faith is all about.  “We walk by faith and not by sight.”  Like Daniel, we will sometimes get delays in our answers to our prayers.  God's not ignoring you or your situation, He sees all.  Right now, you may feel abandoned, rejected, or alone but that's a lie from the devil. Don't stop praying! God hears every word we pray, I am confident of it because of this promise found in Psalm 34:15, "The EYES of the LORD are on the righteous and his EARS are attentive to their cry."  In other words, God is PRESENT! 
     Although you may not “feel” God is present because He feels distant or silent, it doesn’t mean God is ignoring your cry.  God is acquainted with all your way because He made you.  God knows when you sit, when you rise, your thoughts from afar. (Psalm 139:2-4) Besides all of this, He has every single hair of your hair numbered. (Luke 12:7)  He is aware of what’s going on right now!

“Cast your cares upon the Lord for HE CARES FOR YOU!” I Peter 5:7

So, keep seeking Him!  Don’t lose heart or get frustrated with requests yet to be answered.  If anything it’s time to dig your heels in the ground with a determined heart, I will touch the Lord!  Don’t give up!  Christ said not to give up!  “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should ALWAYS PRAY and NOT GIVE UP!  
     We must understand some important truths in this parable to gain insight to prayer.  First, “Christ is not likening God to an unrighteous judge.  The parable is on the ‘How much more variety.”  If a wicked man will sometimes do good, even if from bad motives, how much will God do right?” (Luke by Leon Morris) 
     Second, we need to understand the key characters of this parable: judge, widow, and the elect.  The judge doesn’t fear God or worried about the vengeance of God upon his life.  Also, he doesn’t care about the people he serves or what’s happening to his town.  Yet, he is only one with power to change or bring deliverance.  Next, we have the widow woman who is being oppressed by her enemy.  Why is this so important?  In Biblical times, if a woman didn’t have a husband she had no protection or voice in society.  Also, if she didn’t have a male child, she was considered cursed or looked down upon.  It’s not how God viewed the women or widows, so let me be clear on that.  Nevertheless, this widow needs relief from the oppression, so she seeks the only One in her town who could grant her request.  She doesn’t just ask once for her request but until her desire was granted.  She was going to wear him out!  The judge recognized her persistence to the point of her “bothering him” so he grants it.  Yet, Jesus teaches us an important principle about prayer from the elect: persistence pays off.  Our Heavenly Father loves us; we are His chosen ones who cry out day and night.  It’s only those who are diligent in prayer will see the rewards.  (Hebrews 11:6)  Our Father will not put off our request, He will answer us quickly.  Keep in mind; God’s timing isn’t like ours.  A delayed answer doesn’t mean God is absent or unaware of the situation; He is working behind the scenes to show His glory to all.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Enormous Walls, Unexpected Ways

If you haven’t noticed, God’s instructions don’t always make sense.  Sometimes, we can scratch our heads with wonder, “Did I hear God clearly?”  “Is He REALLY asking me to do this?  “What if the people laugh at me?” Or gossip about me? 

Question: Who are you TRULY trying to please?

       Although our motives can't be seen; God's clearly aware of why we do things?  It's not comforting to have your heart examined by the Holy Spirit.  God's after a holy life; so the Holy Spirit must operate.  He has to keep our hearts pure, so he examines, finds problems, and brings to the cure.  Our prayer and devotional life is vital for it keeps our hearts searched before the Lord.  We go to the doctor or the dentist to have a yearly check-up.  It's not only vital to one's health but it can prevent major issues from spreading or causing death.  So, it's the same with our hearts being examine before the Lord.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Our hearts need to be searched by the Holy Spirit; we can't trust our hearts. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9

    It's not always easy to lead; people will question your motives, your thoughts, and your plans.  We can either surrender to defeat or be confident of God's instructions.  Stand confident in God's direction; He has a clear vision of the map.  He's got the whole world.  When we truly desire to please Him; the opinions of others will fade away.  Also, the majority of people's opinions will follow the crowd.  One moment Christ was being praised; three days later He was crucified.  So, if Christ knew what was in the hearts of man, we must be aware. "He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in man." John 2:25

      If we desire to lead; we must be willing to serve others.  Yet, if we desire to please others for only the honor; we got our reward.  Also, we are not a servant of God. "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10  Now don't misunderstand what I say here; we serve people.  Christ said,"The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12)  Regardless if it’s a secular job or ministry, we will serve people.  The underlining questions:  whose glory are you seeking?  Who do you long to please?  It’s an easy question with our lips with it’s a test of the heart.  Also, it’s completely humbling to our ego.  Ouch!  God’s not worried about your popularity; He wants your obedience.  Being a godly person requires obedience to the voice of God. Moses was called back to Egypt; a place of regret.  Noah was asked to build an ark; he never saw rain.  Joshua was called to walk around the walls of Jericho; he didn't walk once but seven times.  Christ asked Peter to cast his net again; he fished all night without a catch. 

 We can set out to fish with our boat, our knowledge, and our strength but be empty handed because we didn't fish where Christ said.

God will never mislead you!  He will lead us in the path of righteousness for His namesake. (Psalm 23:3)  God’s wisdom is supreme; no man can match it.  You don’t have to defend God’s direction, He will light the way.  We are called to obey His direction; He will defend us.  He will clear show who spoke!  It will silence all the skeptics and doubters.  As you face those enormous walls with unexpected ways-remember no enemy can stand against you because GOD IS FOR YOU! (Romans 8:31)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pain Brings Healing

Pain doesn't discriminate; it comes to all who live and breathe.  No one will escape pain upon this earth, even our precious Savior suffered.  The nailed hands of Jesus don't only prove He understands our scars, He paid for our healing.  No matter how deep the scar; He can heal the soul.  As the painful memories surface, we can feel the pain re-surface or seem it's intensified to blind our faith.  The pain is so present, real, and overwhelming to our mind, it can causes us to question if God is present.  "Where is God?" Do I even matter to Him?" "Or  anyone?"  "Does God even know my name?"   If we are not careful, our feelings can control our lives.  It's not wrong to express the anger, frustration, or sorrow before God.  All of our feelings need to be worked through, so we can be made whole.  The book of Psalms truly reveals the heart of the writer, so it reveals the raw emotions we all experience in life.  Whether afraid, angry, burdened, or uncertain the writer expresses their honest heartfelt emotions to God.  The Psalmist was completely honest before God, he withheld nothing.  

In Psalm 13, David expresses the anguish of his heart, he was weary of the affliction. He felt forgotten (v 1); abandoned by God (v 1); Ignored (v 1); wrestled with thoughts (v 2); sorrow (v 2); and defeated (v 2, 4)   

All of David's feelings arose due to the feeling afflicted by King Saul who was savagely pursing his life.  Saul's jealousy for David caused a lengthy persecution lasting about eight or nine years (1 Samuel 27:1)  David openly expresses his emotions, the torment, and desire for relief from the hand of Saul to God.  He was weary from the length battle but God never left his side.  Besides David expressing his emotions, he expressed his faith to God.  He expressed his faith by turning to God (v 1); hope for restoration (v 3); trust in His unfailing love (v 5); rejoice at His rescue (v 3) called out to God (v 3); praised Him (v 6)

Trials have no set time period but they do have an expiration date.  Our pain doesn't have to keep us down, we can overcome it.  We can trust in God's unfailing love; He will hold us, mend us, and complete us.  We don't have to ignore the pain; we can express it.  It doesn't mean we are weak; it means we are human.  Our Savior understands our sorrow, our temptations, and intercedes in our behalf.  "Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers from them ALL." Psalm 34:19

All season of our lives have value; a valuable purpose under Heaven.  Our character is sharpened, our faith renewed, and watching the majesty of God to bring good out of it.  When the pain seems dark; hold unto the light.  "You intended to harm me, but GOD INTENDED IT FOR GOOD to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)