Friday, October 19, 2012

Life Is Full Of Questions

I Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)  “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we shall see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely.”

Life is filled with so many questions and puzzling situations.  From the time we are born, we are asking questions.  This is how we learn.  We ask, we receive an answer, then we are more knowledgeable than before, however, the older we grow, the more questions that go unanswered.  Now, we can come up with many alternative answers to ease our questioning minds, but we have to admit, many of those don’t settle the uneasiness of our hearts, in that, we know the answer is still beyond our reach. 

Many of us have said on more than one occasion, “One day I’m going to sit down with Jesus and ask Him all of my questions.”  I personally believe that when we arrive in heaven, we won’t need to ask any questions, we will suddenly know the answers.  I John 3:2 (ESV) “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”  We will have a perfect body and a perfect mind.  We will be like him!

Knowing these things helps me deal with life’s questions.  I know that one day, all my questions will have answers and all the puzzling dilemmas of this life will be over.  I can rest as a child, trusting that my Father God will take care of me, knowing that even in death, life is not over; I will be embarking on a new beginning that will have no end.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Strong Tower

Psalm 61:1-3 (NIV) “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.”

When I think about a strong tower, I am reminded of a fortress.  One definition of the word 'fortress' found in the dictionary says, “a place or source of refuge or support”.  In Medieval times, regions of land were ruled by a king and that king lived in a castle.  The castle was usually surrounded by something that formed a barrier, like a body of water (moat) or a thick wall.  The castle had towers that were high and strong, built both for the ability to see a far distance and to be high above the battle.  It would provide protection from flying arrows that could not reach that high.  This is the type of structure the Psalmist compares God with.  He calls Him a rock that is higher than he was.

II Samuel 22:4 (NASB) “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; And exalted be God, the rock of my salvation.”  Psalm 62:1-2 (NIV) “My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

We should be reminded that it’s not only when trouble shakes us that God is that strong tower for us, but also when we fail.  Both are brought on by an enemy.  Sin entered this world through Satan when he led man into disobeying God.  Man hid from God because of his failure.  But he should have run to Him instead, because God was the only one who could remedy what he had done.  It’s kind of like a child that has broken a beautiful vase.  That child hides the vase and tries to repair it, to no avail.  When the parent discovers the deed, the situation is now worse because of the lies and secrecy the child has done.  The parent is the one who can either repair or replace the vase and give the child discipline so that he will take more thought and care in the future, possibly preventing something worse from happening.  When Adam and Eve tried to repair their situation, they wove clothing made from fig leaves to cover them.  Have you ever taken a fig leaf and rubbed it on your skin?  Not very comfortable!  When they finally gave their deed to God, He made clothing for them from animal skins.  Fur must have felt much better than fig leaves!

We so need to run to God and dwell in Him, whether our trouble comes from an attack from the outside or from the enemy leading us to a failure on the inside, God is the rock that is higher.  He is the place where we can find rest for our souls and food for our spirit.  He is a strong tower where we can hide from the flying arrows that are aimed at taking us out of the battle.  Run to the strong tower and find safety, comfort, mercy and grace.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Lazy Is NOT Cool

Proverbs 24:30-34 (NIV) “I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.  I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw:  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest– and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.”

I grew up with parents who taught me not to be lazy.  In fact, everyone in our household had jobs to do.  When I was just a little girl, my mother had me helping with the laundry, dusting furniture, washing dishes and taking care of our pets.  As I grew older, my tasks expanded, according to my abilities.  When we moved to a small farm, I began helping my dad with outside chores, cutting grass, trimming hedges, caring for the farm animals and working in the vegetable garden.  As most children, I complained at times, but in all honesty, I truly enjoyed staying busy and experiencing the results of my work.  As an adult, I have never been without a job when one was needed and I still enjoy the results of a job well done.

This scripture speaks about the writer seeing someone’s vineyard that had been left untended.  He calls the person a sluggard.  Webster’s Dictionary uses these synonyms to describe a sluggard: couch potato, deadbeat, do-nothing, drone, idler, layabout, loafer, slouch, lazybones.  Because the owner of the vineyard was lazy, it had gone to waste and had become worthless.

Proverbs 13:4 (NLT) says it best, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.”

Very few things in life come without effort.  Sadly, there’s some people who put a lot of effort into getting things through fraud or crime, but be assured, just as a seed is sown into the ground, it will bring forth a crop.  Galatians 6:7 (NIV) “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.”

It is best to sow diligence and hard work, you will surely reap its rewards and benefits!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Something New

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!”

Everybody likes new things!  At the moment, I am shopping for something new to give my grandchildren for their birthday.  They are triplets and will be two years old.  Needless to say, they will be excited to receive a new toy from their grandmother and I will be excited too!  That’s the way it is with something new… exciting! 

God encourages us with this scripture to look forward to new, exciting things that He is going to do.  When we dwell in the past, especially our failures, shortcomings, losses, misfortunes, disappointments and such, we are robbed of joy, peace and happiness.  There’s nothing more depressing than to spend time thinking on all these types of things.  But Isaiah says to forget these things and to not live in the past.

Micah 7:19 (NIV) “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” 

If God throws our sins into the sea, who are we to drag them up again?  If we’ve asked His forgiveness, He forgives AND forgets!  We actually block the new and exciting things God wants to do in our lives by holding onto our failures. 

Have you ever tried to walk somewhere while you’re looking behind?  You probably stumbled off the path if you did.  We need to keep our eyes looking ahead, not behind.  Whatever we have our focus set upon is exactly where we set our life to go.

Heavenly Father, help us find
Joy in thinking
Of Your love.
Help us lose
Thoughts of our sins,
And leave them in
The sea of forgetfulness.
Heavenly Father, help us rest
On Your promises,
They are best
Suited for life’s every test.
Help us expect something new
Straight from heaven
Straight from You!   

Monday, September 10, 2012

Baa Or But?

Matthew 25:31-33 (NRSVB)  "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

As I was I in prayer this week over a dear sister who has befallen into dire physical complications, already spending many weeks in the hospital, with seemingly more weeks yet to come, I was not only distraught about her condition, but also about the growing indifference of believers who declare they are too busy to visit her or even give her a call.  This sister has been a member of our church for twenty years, so it’s not that she is new and relatively unknown, and sadly, this is not the only case that I’ve noticed this growing dilemma.  When asked if they’ve called or been able to drop by, they excuse themselves because their lives are so busy; jobs, children, grandchildren, etc.  If anyone understands busy, I do, and I must admit my own shortcomings, too, that I haven’t always been as outreaching either.

As I was praying over this matter, this scripture in Matthew came to my mind.  I looked it up and even though I remembered basically what it said, I was quite taken aback for the distinction it made between the sheep and the goats.  Let’s read on.

 34 “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

Now I’m sure you have heard this scripture taught many times, just as I have, and it is usually during a mission outreach or missions fundraising effort, reminding us that as we give to send missionaries out, they are doing these things, and there is truth in that.  I can’t go to India and Africa, or to the Amazon, but I can help send someone else and thus, I have a part in it.  But in the next verses, it appears that Christ is talking about something far closer to home.

37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40 And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

In the King James Version of the Bible, verse 40 says, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible says, “members of my family”.  It appears that Jesus is speaking about our brothers and sisters in Christ!

So these are the people who are seated at the right hand of Jesus in Glory, the sheep who know the voice of their Shepherd and follow where He leads, John 10:27.  What would Jesus Do?  He would visit the sick, encourage the downtrodden, give to one who has a need, make a stranger feel welcome, visit those in prison.  As Christians (like Christ) we follow our Shepherd and obey His voice when we do these things. 

What are the characteristics of goats?  Well, let me tell you, if you want to deal with something that is exasperating and annoying, deal with a goat!  We have raised a few goats in our time and even used our Billy goat in a couple of church dramas.  That Billy never did what we needed him to do when he was supposed to do it.  In one drama, just as the shepherd character walked in front of the congregation with Billy, he just fell down on the floor and laid there!  The guy finally had to pick him up and drag him to the spot where he was supposed to stand!  Then Billy stood beside the shepherd and tried to eat the scenery and chewed on the shepherd’s robe the entire time.

Our goats would continually press their boundaries, even though we had electrical wire fencing in front of the regular fence.  Eventually they would make a way to get out.  They also climbed trees or anything else that would get them higher than the ground, and there’s nothing worse than the sound of a silly goat who is not a happy camper! 

Goats are "restless" and like to roam. Goats constantly challenge the boundaries set by the Shepherd. (They are never satisfied with where they are) In Jeremiah, God speaks of his sheep being scattered in the mountains like he-goats before the flock.
Goats are very curious, always looking for something to get into. Psalms 104:18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats;
 Goats don't like to follow, they like to lead, always have to be out in front. They are always sure "they" know where the flock needs to go.

 “41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45 Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

John 13:12 – 17 (NIV)  “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

So the Great Shepherd is asking us today – which section do we want to be seated in, the Goat Section or the Sheep Section?   I pray that we will be His sheep!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Holy Beauty Pageant

Esther 4:14 (NIV) “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Esther was one of those girls who happened to be at the right place at the right time with the right looks.  She was obviously very beautiful, young and desirable, however, God had His hand on her, which counted for more than anything she possessed.  She was a Jew and one of many who were a foreign people in the land where King Ahasuerus reigned over 127 provinces, from India to Ethiopia.  She lived with her uncle, Mordecai, because her parents were deceased, and he entered her in a beauty contest which would determine the new queen for King Ahasuerus.

Mordecai instructed Esther to keep her ethnicity secret and tell no one that she was Jewish.  Of all the many, many beautiful young ladies who the king could have picked, Esther stole his heart.  What a Cinderella story!  A young girl who had no royal bloodline, who was a foreigner, who came from a lowly family, who would have normally had no exposure to a king’s consideration of her is now the queen!

Before long, however, it became apparent why God had made this arrangement possible.  There was more at stake than just the ‘dream come true’ life of a young girl.  A plot became plan to annihilate all the Jews from King Ahasuerus’ kingdom.  When Mordecai learned of this evil scheme, he got word to Esther.  She reminded her uncle that she could not approach the king unless he allowed it and that he had no idea that she was a Jew.  That is when Mordecai reminded her with the words in this scripture “and who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this”. 

Esther called for all her people to fast and pray with her for God to give her favor with the king, which he did.  The king ordered the man responsible for the plot to be hanged and wrote a decree which allowed the Jews to be able to defend themselves against anyone who would try to harm them.  God used a young girl from a lowly family to save a nation!

You and I are just as valuable in God’s hands.  Whatever or wherever we may be; our job, our neighborhood, our school, our family, etc., could be a divine appointment – for how do we not know that we have been put there ‘for such a time as this’! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When I Am Afraid

Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)  “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of great difficulty, you will not drown!”

Some people are mistaken to think that Christians will never have troubles in their life if they have enough faith.  Some of this is because of ministers who have preached and taught this kind of message.  The truth is, God promised he would help us through troubles, not completely avoid them.  There are some things in life that will come our way simply because of this fallen world where troubles reside.  We are born into bodies that are not created to live forever.  There is evil lurking around every corner, but, God says, “Do not be afraid!”  In fact, the words ‘fear not’ or ‘do not be afraid’ appear in the Bible 365 times – one for each day of the year, including leap year so that we will daily be reminded to put our trust in God! 

When I was a child, I was afraid of the unseen things in the dark.  Now that I am an adult, my fears are about bigger things in life – how to pay the bills, the safety of my kids and grandkids, growing old and becoming unable to care for myself, etc.  Many things that I was once afraid about have now come and gone – being financially stable, being a good parent and raising my children, losing my parents to death, my children growing up and leaving home, etc.  Then there are those things that present fear to us in the moment – my husband is late could he have had an accident, what will the economy do to our financial situation, my job has been terminated, my child is sick, I may have cancer, etc.  Fear IS the unseen thing lurking in the dark, waiting to jump out at any time.   Fear IS the dark shadow in the corner.  Fear IS the thing hiding under the bed, but God says, “Do not be afraid”!

When I was a child and I became afraid, I always cried out for my mother.  I’m sure that you did, too, or maybe it was your dad who you would call for, either way, we knew that parent would come to us and make everything better.  Why?  Because we were their child!  Their love for us would have caused them to sacrifice whatever necessary for our well being, and that’s why we trusted them.  They were bigger and wiser and we knew they would know what to do.  God says in this verse that the reason why we should not be afraid is because he has ransomed (redeemed, bought back, paid a big price for) us.  In other words, we’re his child AND he knows us by our name.  We’re not merely a product number from an assembly line, no, each one of us are to God just as important as either one of my three daughters are to me.  He is Father God!  

We can be assured that when we are afraid, we can call out for him, he will come to us and make everything better.  He will walk us through the dark times, through the sad times, through the hard times, through lack, through pain, through it all.   He is bigger and wiser and his love for us has already caused him to sacrifice whatever was necessary for our good, that’s why we can trust him.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

We Walk Together

I call,
You come,
We walk

I rest,
You caress,
Wipe away
My tears.

It's here,
In this place,
I can almost
See Your face.

I feel
Your eyes,
Full of love,
Time's erased.

I'm swept up in,
A moment when,
My heart begins,
To live again!

You fill me up,
Build me up,
Put me back
On solid ground.

Even though
I give you all,
You always give
Me more.

I go,
You wait,
We talk

It's near
In my heart,
When I almost
Saw Your face.

I must return,
My longing burns,
Your grace
Leads me back to the place,

Where we walk together.

Copyright 2012  Tracia Bussey

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Paint With Love

I Peter 4:8 (NIV)  “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

There’s an amazing product on the market to help cover unsightly blemishes on walls and surfaces.  This product is called Kilz.  If you have an interior or exterior wall or ceiling which has something on it that regular paint will not cover, this product will be your best help to resolve your issue.  The label reads, “Kilz is a fast drying, water-based multi-purpose primer, sealer and stain blocker that has a very mild odor and blocks out most light stains including water, rust, grease, ink, pencil and felt marker.”  This reminds me of the verse in I Peter where the writer is encouraging Christians to exhibit ‘deep’ love for one another, because love covers all kinds of sin.  Just like Kilz will cover all kinds of stains, love acts like a multi-purpose primer, sealer and stain blocker!

There’s no better biblical description of love than the scripture in Ephesians 13, fondly referred to as ‘the love chapter’.   The Message Bible gives a great understanding to the first three verses in this chapter and the New Living Translation gives the clearest understanding of verses 4-8.

Ephesians 13:1-3 (The Message)  “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.  So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

Ephesians 13:4-8 (New Living Translation)  “Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance…love will last forever!”

There is no greater love than the love that God the Father has shown to us, in that He gave His only Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for us, so that we can be made righteous and be saved.  The blood of His dear Son covers our sins.  Revelation 1:5 “…unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”  Likewise, when we have love for others, and the kind of love that is described in this scripture only comes with the empowerment of God Almighty, we show the goodness of God.  There is a time to speak the truth of God, but only with love as the motivation, otherwise it will not display God’s character.  We can’t lead people to repentance, only the goodness and kindness of God’s love draws people to God.

Romans 2:4 (God’s Word Translation)  “Do you have contempt for God, who is very kind to you, puts up with you, and deals patiently with you?  Don’t you realize that it is God’s kindness that is trying to lead you to him and change the way you think and act?”

We need to paint with Kilz when there are stains on our walls, and we need to love one another when there are stains on our sisters and brothers!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Exodus 14:19-29 (NIV) “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them.  The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.  Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other; so neither went near the other all night long.”

After many plagues and hardships had come upon Egypt through the stubbornness of the Pharoah not releasing the children of Israel, they were finally on their way to the promise land.  The Pharoah had gladly set the people free from their bondage when his first born son died from the death angel passing over Egypt, the last plague, however, after the Israelites left, the Pharoah became angry and gathered his army together to pursue Israel and punish them for his sorrow.   The Egyptian army came upon Israel as they were camped by the Red Sea.  I would say they were caught ‘between a rock and a hard place’!

The Israelites were afraid as they saw the Egyptian army drawing near.  There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, it appeared they would all be slaughtered in the dessert or at best, taken back to Egypt to live once more as slaves.  But God had a different plan!

The angel of the Lord came between the Israelites and the Egyptian army, causing a cloud to remain there all night.  This cloud caused darkness to the Egyptians but gave light to the Israelites.  God instructed Moses to hold out his staff to the water and God parted the sea, causing the waters to roll back and make a path for the people to cross on dry ground.  They had light from the cloud all night so they could travel to the other side of the sea.  After they had arrived on the other shore, God allowed the cloud to lift and Pharoah with his army charged after the Israelites.  God released the waters upon the Egyptian army, including the Pharoah, and they were all drowned.  The Israelites were saved and free to continue their journey to the land of Canaan, never to be pursued by the Egyptians again.

There are times when we are ‘between a rock and a hard place’ in life.  Times when there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from troubles.  Times when the enemy and all of his demons are charging us, planning to slaughter us or take us captive as slaves, times when it is an impossible situation with no visible solution.  But God has another plan!

The same cloud that will darken the enemy’s sight will give us light.  The same waters that are parted for us to escape will crush our attackers.  God is both beautiful and terrible.  It just depends on which side of the cloud you are on!

We should remember that there’s never anything too hard for God.  Regardless of what our ‘rock’ or our ‘hard place’ may be, God has another plan!

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Did Jesus Say?

Colossians 3:16 – 17 (NIV) “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise.  Use his words to teach and counsel each other.  Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.  And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus.”

Many years ago, a popular saying among Christians was,  ”What Would Jesus Do?”  This little question was shortened to WWJD and put on bracelets, t-shirts, hats, buttons and other items with the intent of reminding us to be a representative of Jesus in our actions and words.  There’s no doubt that it helped Christians to rethink some things and maybe even redo something that was not right, but mere letters on a bracelet are a short lived solution to being a representative of Jesus Christ. 

Here, Paul encourages us to first, have the words of Jesus living in our inner most being, our heart.  This would be more than just wearing a popular acronym on our wrist, it would be allowing the Word of God to be our way of life.  Notice he says also that those words will make us wise, or in other words, will help us make wise choices.  There are times when we may need a bracelet with the letters WDJS on it (What Did Jesus Say?) before we made certain decisions and choices, so that we would stop, pray and listen to Him before we acted.

“Use his words to teach and counsel each other”.  Too often, we offer advice to others that is simply our opinions, when our opinions will never have the power to help someone as much as the words of Jesus, especially when a friend or coworker is facing a serious dilemma in life.  Jesus was always loaded with just the right thing to say when he encountered someone who was in a desperate situation.  Of course, it was not because he was so smart, but because he was always led by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told his disciples that it was expedient for him to go to the Father, so that the Holy Spirit could come.  The same Holy Spirit that guided Jesus, is in every Christian, to the measure that we yield to him and allow him to direct and guide our lives.  He will always show us truth and lead us in the paths of righteousness.  He will give us the words to say when the time is needed and will reveal to us when that time is right.  Luke 12:12 (NIV)  “for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”  John 16:13 (NIV) “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

“Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”  That reminds me of a little song we used to sing in the early days of our Christian walk.  A close minister friend of ours calls these types of songs “Kitchen Choruses” since we would gather in each other’s homes and study the Bible together, many times at the kitchen table, and sing choruses to the Lord.  This one goes like this…
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me
Spring up, oh well, within my soul
Spring up, oh well, and make me whole
Spring up, oh well, and give to me
That life, abundantly.

When we have a song in our heart that is bubbling out from a well of thanksgiving to God, we seem to soar over every bump and pot hole in life’s road.  There’s something extremely powerful about that river of life that only comes from God. 

So to sum up this verse…
Live like Jesus, with a song of praise & thanksgiving flowing from our hearts, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in everything we say and do, and benefit from wisdom that only comes from God.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sweet Peace

John 14:27 (NIV) “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

When Jesus was telling this statement to his disciples, it was not long before the temple guards came to arrest him, just prior to his trial and crucifixion.  He was preparing them for what would soon happen.  I’m sure the full meaning of all he was saying was not weighing in on them, not until everything began unfolding before their eyes.  They have walked with Jesus, shared and talked with Jesus, been taught and discipled by Jesus for three years.  They all loved him dearly, all except Judas.  I wonder if Judas had already decided in his heart that he would betray Jesus at this point.  He may have already made a deal with the high priests and may already be counting his money in his head as Jesus spoke these words.  Knowing the betrayal to come, Jesus still made this promise – I do not give as the world gives, I give you my peace!

How does the world give?  The world gives only when it benefits the giver – “I’ll scratch your back if you will scratch mine”.  The world gives until the receiver disappoints in some way, then the world takes it back.   The world gives only to its favorites.  The world gives only to the popular.  The world gives only so much, never giving all.   Jesus gave it all.  Only Jesus gave up his crown in heaven to be born on earth in a lowly manger.  Only Jesus gave all of his love, mercy and grace to any and all who would receive.  Only Jesus gave his life through a cruel death.  Only Jesus!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  Jesus is still telling his disciples this today.  If you have Jesus in your heart, if you serve him, if you love him, if you are a Christian, he is speaking to you.  Philippians 4:7 (NASB) “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  The peace that Jesus gives to us is a supernatural peace, it passes our natural understanding.  This peace guards our hearts and our minds.  If there’s ever been a time that mankind needs strong hearts and sound minds it is today!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Where Eagles Fly

Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)  “But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength.  They will fly high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  The will walk and not faint.”

The kind of waiting that is spoken of in this scripture means, “confident expectation”.  It would be similar to the waiting that’s done in a hospital when a baby is being born.  There’s a knowing that a new life, a bundle of blessing, is about to make an arrival.  There is an abundance of ‘confident expectation’ that something good is about to happen! 

It is important to stay focused on ‘who’ God is and in ‘what’ He is doing.  Our confidence should be founded in His character – He is good, He is just, He is faithful, He is merciful, He is wise, He is true to His Word, He is loving, understanding and always on time.  Our ‘confident expectations’ should rest upon knowing and trusting God’s principles, promises, purposes and power will never fail.

I’m convinced the strength spoken of in Isaiah 40:31 is supernatural spiritual strength.  We’re promised that our ‘confident expectation’ will reward us with new strength, and then that strength is related to the eagle’s power to soar high in the sky without tiring.

Why did God use the eagle to relate this promise to us?  Because the eagle is such an amazing creature!  Did you know the strike of a Bald Eagle’s talon is so powerful that its force is twice that of a rifle bullet?  Did you know the term “eagle eye” comes from the fact that eagles can see an object at a distance up to one and a half miles away?  Did you know eagles can dive at 100 miles per hour and pound for pound, an eagle’s wing is stronger than the wing of an airplane?  Of course God knows how fantastic eagles are, He created them!

It is exciting to see an eagle in action in its natural habitat.  We have recently had several sightings of Bald Eagles at the lake where we fish.  I have seen them fly higher and higher into the sky until they become a tiny object circling and gliding overhead, their white tails and heads reflecting the sunlight.  I have watched them dive to the water for fish and perch proudly in the tallest trees.  Their image has been used by people groups throughout history as an identity of strength, stamina and power.  Our own United States of America’s national symbol is the Bald Eagle!

When we have ‘confident expectation’ in our God, who is good in character and never fails in His promises, we gain strength to rise above the things on this earth that would normally hold us down.  Supernaturally, we can soar higher, see further, strike stronger, move faster, live bolder and stand longer.  He is the wind beneath our wings!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's Not Our Fight

Deuteronomy 20:4 (NIV) “For the Lord God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

I was thirteen years old when my family moved from the big city to the rural area that I still reside in.  We bought a small farm and embarked upon a simpler way of life, however, everything wasn’t as calm as I expected.  It was March of my eighth grade year in school and my mother enrolled me in the Junior High in town with only two and a half months to complete the year.  I was greeted warmly on my first day by students and faculty, in fact, my first couple of weeks in my new school was bliss.  I was the ‘new girl’ and momentarily quite the popular one.  

About the third week, my blissful state became rudely disrupted.  One of the girls who had befriended me became upset that I was too friendly with someone else and challenged me to a fight during Gym class.  Now where I grew up, it was considered highly crude for girls to fight.  I had never even seen girls fight nor even knew a girl who had been in a fight.  I was in a state of shock at the concept of fighting when this girl hauled off and punched me in the arm.  She then backed up with her fists in front of her face, ready to go at it.  My mind raced as I looked for a way out of this dilemma.  I grabbed at the excuse that I would not fight in school and risk being in trouble.  This only rescued me for the moment because the girl informed me she would be waiting for me when school dismissed.  

The remainder of the day went by in a blur.  I was a Christian and I was praying, asking God to help me out of this fight.  When the final bell rang, I hurried to grab my things out of my locker, hoping that maybe I could get on the bus before the girl saw me, then I would be safe, until the next day anyway.  My strategy didn’t work, she was standing between me and my bus, waiting, with a group of girls who were anxious to watch us fight.  Oh my, “Lord, please just let me disappear!” I prayed.  I took a deep breath, ready to take my beating and praying that surely the bus driver or some adult somewhere would stop the action before I was injured too badly.  I walked up to her and said,  “I'm not going to fight”.  She lunged at me anyway swinging her fist.  As I dodged her swing one of the girls who had been watching stepped in front of her.  She was bigger and I later learned, much feared by the rest.  She got up in the girl's face and said, “The new girl said she wasn't going to fight, but I will.  If you want to go at it, then come on!”  Needless to say, there was no fight that day, nor any day that followed.  God heard my prayers, He was with me and gave me victory without me having to fight for it. 

Just as I faced a fight that day that I could not win, we face battles in life that are sent to destroy us, fights that are for life and death, spirit and soul.  Ephesians 6:18 (NLT)  “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”   God sent His Son, Jesus, in the New Testament who overcame sin and death.  He won victory over evil through the cross.  He is bigger and much feared by Satan and all his demons.  He steps between us and the enemy and says, “If you want to go at it, then come on!”   

Monday, July 23, 2012

Born Again FREE!

John 8:36 (NIV) “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
A close minister friend once told us about a dream.  He said that in this dream he was a prisoner in a jail cell.  He remembered standing there looking through the bars and seeing Satan on the other side laughing at him, scoffing and taunting him with words that told him how trapped he was, how he would never be free and how he had done all of this to himself and how he had gotten what he deserved.  Our friend described the feelings that he felt in this dream, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, depression, defeat, fear and dread.  He said that just as he was at his lowest moment Jesus showed up in the jail cell beside him.  He instructed our friend to turn around and look behind him.  When he did, he was amazed that there were no bars.  Then Jesus gave him the ability to see the situation from above.  He was then extremely surprised to see himself standing in front of a jail cell which Satan was inside and he was on the outside.  He had been so mesmerized by Satan’s lies that his perspective convinced him that it was the other way around when in actuality it was Satan who was trapped with no way out.  He had been free the entire time!
John 8:44 (NIV) …he was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  In this scripture, Jesus is describing Satan.  Why do we believe his lies?  He will take a small piece of truth and then twist it in order to cause us to not believe God’s words.  He plants seeds of doubt in our heart so we won’t trust our Father.  He is like the Pied Piper, he plays a tune that we begin to dance to and then he slowly leads us down a path of destruction. 
I Peter 5:8 (KJV) “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” Notice the choice of wording in this scripture says that the devil walks about AS a roaring lion.  In the jungle, a lion’s roar strikes fear in the hearts of the other animals.  When that roar is heard, the animals react, some run, some hide and others freeze stiff, unable to move in fear.  Just as our friend’s dream revealed that his captivity was due to believing Satan’s lies, so it is in the Christian’s life – “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Stop listening to the enemy’s roars!  Turn away from his taunting and scoffing!  Set your affections on the Father’s heart and His words of life!  Let the Son of God lift you up, above the situation.  Let Jesus give you a perspective from heaven and you will walk in freedom!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

There Is Reward For Obedience

Revelation 22:11 (NIV)  "See I am coming soon and my reward is with me to repay all according to their deeds."

Just last night I had a dream of working for a company where I had put in the 'more than required' level of effort and time.  Actually, that is characteristic of who I am.  I believe that when I do my best or give my best effort it will be more than expected.  In this dream, the owner of the company had called a meeting and he was handing out recognition to each employee for the job they had done.  When he called my name he handed me a different paper than the others.  It not only applauded my hard work and over time, but it also highly recommended me for a higher position with better pay and benefits.  I remember how excited I was and how glad I felt that I had went the extra mile so many times that others wouldn't - it had finally been recognized and rewarded.

When I came upon this verse today, I was quickly reminded of the dream from last night.  I truly want to feel those same feelings when my Lord and Savior, Jesus returns and hands out His rewards according to our deeds.  I do not want to be one of those who will wish they had given all they could or done all that was asked of them.  Even though we are not saved by our works, obviously there are rewards connected for obeying God's commands.

I Samuel 15:22-23 (NIV) "But Samuel replied: "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king."

In this story, Saul was ordered by God to destroy the Amalekites, to leave nothing behind including animals. When Saul and his army went to battle, they decided it was a better idea to save the best of everything and not destroy it all.  Of course God saw what happened and He spoke to the prophet Samuel to go tell Saul he would no longer remain king of Israel because of his disobedience.  When Samuel confronted Saul about his actions, Saul defended what he had done claiming they had saved all of the best for sacrifices to God.  That's when Samuel told him that God would rather have obedience than sacrifices.

Isn't this so common in how we seem to come up with a 'better idea'?  I believe it's not original but just the trickery of Satan.  Do you remember the approach he brought to Adam and Eve about eating the forbidden fruit?  Genesis 3:1 (NIV)  "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, "You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"  The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"  "You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman.  "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  It would have been so much better if Adam and Eve had obeyed God's command instead of questioning His reasons for it.  God knew that if they ate the fruit of that tree they would in deed know good and evil, but the only way they could know evil was to sin, which opened the door for evil to enter the earth.  Satan is always working to cause us to question the goodness of God's character.  He knows that if we don't believe God's commandments are based in what's best for us then we will rebel against Him.  Just as a child may not believe its parent's instructions are for their good but believes they don't want them to enjoy life and have fun will rebel and do dangerous things.

I can still hear my mother's voice ringing in my ears so many times, "Did I not tell you to do....(whatever it was)?"  Oh my, there was always punishment for diverting from her instructions, and rightly so!  It made me be the person I am today.  I raised my own children the same way, to honor my instructions.  I taught them that there was reward in obedience and recompense in disobedience.

Not only do I believe that God's commandments are for our good but that there is reward for obedience and diligence.  When Jesus returns I want to look at my reward and rejoice that I didn't hold anything back from obeying my Father God!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Betrayal Is Cruel

Psalm 86:5 (NIV)  "O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask your aid."

I have had several major occasions in my life where I was badly wounded, not physically, but emotionally.  Each one of them involved someone that I had given my friendship and trust to.  Betrayal is a cruel thing.  It is what Jesus experienced with Judas.  Someone He had shared His heart with, gave all of His love to, entrusted His very life and gifts with betrayed Him, much worse than any betrayal that I've experienced, he betrayed Him to a torturous death.  As with the people who betrayed me, I'm sure there was genuine love and friendship in the beginning, but somewhere something took a sour turn and the love once felt turned to hate and resentment.  In my case, I may have even been the cause, maybe somehow or some way I hurt them and so they in turn set out to hurt me, but in Jesus' case, that wasn't true.  He was without wrong, without sin, without offense, but yet Judas' heart turned against him.

Reading this verse "O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive" brought these memories back to me of not being willing to forgive people who wronged me.  I must even confess that I entertained thoughts and maybe even dabbled with actions of revenge.  Even after being able to forgive to some level, I still battled with any desire to come to their aid if they should need it.  It took a process of prayer, time and more prayer for me to forgive and be able to stop replaying the hurtful deeds they had done over and over in my head.

I'm telling all of this to point out the difference between us and God.  He is so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for His aid, even though we have repeatedly shunned Him, rejected Him, cursed Him, blamed Him, hated Him, despised Him and hurt Him.  I am overwhelmed in my heart by His great love and pray that He will help me live in His love at all times.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't Forfeit The Power of The Son

Psalm 51:7 (NIV)  “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

One of my fondest memories from childhood was helping my mother with the laundry each week.  She would give me a basket of small items, such as wash cloths, socks, under garments and hand towels to hang on the clothes line.  After they dried in the sunshine, we would take them all down, fold them and put them neatly away in their proper places.  All of the clothes and linens seemed to be so fresh and clean, especially the white ones.  I remember my mother would tell me to smell the sunshine in each piece of laundry.  I can still recall those smells in my memory.  We would also periodically take our pillows, rugs, and other such items outside and allow the sun to remove unwanted odors and give them a nice smell, too.  When we brought those things back into the house again, they would bring the freshness of sunlight inside.  

We’ve gained a lot of conveniences and speed with our modern appliances, giving us the ability to wash and dry our laundry with the least amount of effort.  We use detergents that have a multiple selection of scents and extra whitening power, add softeners and static reducers to our dryers, all in an effort to replace the benefits lost by an easier way to do things.  We have forfeited the benefits of the sun, which has the power to whiten and give freshness to our clothes.

Sadly, we have also forfeited the benefits of the Son of God when we do not rely heavily on the whitening power of His blood.  We can try many other ways to be clean from sin – good works, positive confession, denial, deferring blame, self loathing, just to name a few, but there is only one way that our sins are washed away. 

I John 1:7 (NIV) “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son purifies us from all sin.”

We would do well to be reminded of the power of the blood as this old hymn so well states, that our cleansing and all of our righteousness comes through the blood of Jesus Christ.

What Can Wash Away My Sin (Robert Lowry)

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh!  Precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my cleansing this I see-
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
For my pardon this my plea-
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Nothing can my sin erase
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Naught of works, ‘tis all of grace-
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace-
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
This is all my righteousness-
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Oh!  Precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Think On Forever

II Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)  "So we don't look at the troubles we have right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen.  For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever."

We live in a society that lives for today, refusing to consider there's an end to life or accept the natural process of growing old.  This approach to living puts so much importance on having it all, doing it all and looking like we're 25 years old that the results are stress, depression and anger.  We cannot obtain possessions, accomplishments or experiences that require a lifetime to get in a day nor can we always remain young.  We will only find disappointment in this treasure hunt of earthly fulfillment that is projected as 'living'.

Since we are so 'live in the now' minded, not only does this trap us in a disappointing pursuit of unattainable goals, but it also traps us in drowning in our troubles and woes of today.  Paul encourages us to "look forward to what we have not yet seen".  He's reminding Christians of our hope for eternity where there will be joys forever.  It is a fact that people who do not look forward, who do not have hope for tomorrow, are the most depressed.  As a Christian, we should never be in a state of living in today's woes because we have unlimited joys awaiting us in our forever life.  

I personally look forward to my eternal home.  It will be well furnished with peace, joy, love, safety and fulfillment.  It will be populated with many friends and family that I love dearly.  It will be filled with an atmosphere of holiness, righteousness and well lighted with the Light of my life, Jesus.  It will be void of sickness, sadness, disappointment, hurt, depression and sin.  It will be in the most beautiful neighborhood imaginable and have all the amenities that anyone could ever want.  

When I keep all of these things in my remembrance, the pleasures and treasures of today don't lure my heart into a depressing pursuit nor do the woes and troubles that I am experiencing now rob me of peace and joy.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Jars Of Clay

II Corinthians 4: 7-10 (NIV)  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."

How can we be hard pressed but not crushed?  How can we be perplexed but not in despair?  How can we be persecuted but not abandoned?  How can we be struck down but not destroyed?  These are comparisons that Paul is making between the natural and the spiritual.  With God's all-surpassing power in us we may be under pressure from the world, but in the spiritual realm, we are not crushed.  We may be perplexed by the world, but in the spiritual realm, we do not despair.  We may be persecuted by the world, but in the spiritual realm, we are not alone.  We may be struck down by the world, but in the spiritual realm, we are not destroyed.

Our problem as Christians come when we live fully in this natural realm, putting our hope and trust in man and man's systems, or when we are relying upon our own strength to deal with life.  Paul reminds us that we are merely clay vessels, made of dirt and easily broken.  It's what's inside our vessels that carries us through.

Paul says that we carry inside us the death of Jesus (the only Son of God crucified for us) so that the life of Jesus (His resurrection power) may pour out of us.  If we only have human strength, human answers, human love, human power, human compassion, then we have little to nothing to draw from nor pour out to anyone else.  If we have God's strength, God's answers, God's love, God's power, God's compassion, then we have everything we need, plus more to pour out to others.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Faith Tested Is Stronger Faith

James 1:3-4 (NIV)  "For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when our endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything."

When my family first moved from the big city to a small farm, the first farm animal we added was chickens.  For some reason, I had a love for this farm fowl for as long as I could remember.  My grandparents on my dad's side of the family had a country home and one of my favorite activities to do when we visited them was to see the chickens.

One of the most exciting days in my new farm life was the day our first baby chick hatched from an egg.  We had allowed a hen about twelve eggs to sit on and hatch.  Most all of the chicks had broken out of their shells with no problem, but there was one that seemed to take longer.  In my impatience and sincere desire to assist the poor thing, I helped it break its shell away.  I had no idea that I had doomed the little bird with my aid.  I later learned that the infant fowl must have the struggle necessary to peck slowly out of its shell, just as a butterfly must experience the struggle it requires to emerge from its cocoon.  Without the effort needed, both the infant fowl and the butterfly will be too weak to survive.  It's the struggle that strengthens!

James is saying in this verse that it is to our advantage for our faith to be put to the test.  The struggles that we experience through difficulties strengthen us because we discover that we must have God's strength to pull through!  Each test that we conquer only makes us stronger to face something bigger.  James encourages us to not be resistant to the test of our faith, but to let our faith have the opportunity to grow.

God gives us His grace to empower us.  This is supernatural strength to overcome, not a supernatural removal of all problems from our life.  He knows that if He takes away our struggles He will doom us with His aid.

God desires to give us our wings so that we can fly high above this world and soar over every sin that would easily beset us.  He will never pick our shell or peel our cocoon, but He will strengthen us from within our spirit with His power to rise above every trial that would try to weigh us down.

Friday, June 29, 2012

What's In Tomorrow

Psalm 37:23 (NIV)  "The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord.  He delights in every detail of their lives."

All of us want to know the future.  We recognize our inability to see past today and agonize over tomorrow. Many people look to their horoscopes to be informed and others consult fortune tellers.  It is a fact that there are people who have insight that is given to them by evil spirits.  If they are getting information that is not naturally available, and it's not from God's Spirit, then it is from Satan. 

Some Christians even chase after prophets and well known ministers, seeking to get a word for their life.  I have to honestly say that I like to get a word of prophecy myself, however, if God doesn't minister or speak it to your heart and if it doesn't agree with the character of God and His Word, it should be rejected.  We should remember that man has something to gain if he is 'right'.  People will trust him and follow him.  He may even get larger offerings.  God is the only being that does not have any selfish motive behind His instructions to us.  He is motivated by love and love alone.

When my husband was called to be the pastor of our church, I didn't even consider what that meant.  I do remember thinking that no one asked me if I was okay with that plan, but since I had no reference to base my expectations upon, then I was willing to do and be whatever it would require.  What if God had let me see a mini movie of the ups and downs that we would encounter during the coming years.  What if God had allowed me to know the sacrifices, the disappointments, the heavy responsibility of keeping a church healthy, alive and thriving.  What if God had let me see the year that my youngest child was a newborn, my other two girls were ages ten and five and my husband had to take a job fifty miles away because the church couldn't pay his salary, and I had to carry the load at home and at church in his absence.  What if God had let me see the time when my closest and dearest friend betrayed us and stole from us, all the while sowing seeds of discord among the members, causing them to believe lies and leave the church, which resulted in several years of picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild again.  I have to be honest and say that if God had let me see all of it I would have run like a mad woman to the farthest corner of the earth to avoid going down that road.  Since I didn't know, then I was forced to trust God and lean on Him for strength and ability.  I found that He was there to help me and His grace was enough to empower me in each trial, making a way to overcome.  I am sure that Father knows best and He knows that we can't handle seeing our future!

God promises us that He will light our way.  Psalm 119:105 (NASB)  "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path."  If you've ever used a lantern in the dark, then you know that it doesn't illuminate a large area, it is sufficient to see where you will take your next few steps, the rest of the path must trusted to God's hands.

He will grace us where He takes us!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Deep And Wide

Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV)  "16) I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18) may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19) and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  20) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen."

If ever there was a heart that truly desired for the Christian to have an enlightened walk with God, it was Paul!  These six verses are packed with so many aspects of the ingredients which ensure one to be able to live a Spirit-led life.

Verse 16 - We are strengthened with power in our Spirit-man from God's great amount of help.
Verse 17 - We have Christ in our heart by faith.  Our best foundation is the root of love.
Verse 18 - We together with other believers need to continually expand our understanding of Christ's love.
Verse 19 - The revelation of His love, which we will never fully understand in this life, will keep us full of God's characteristics.
Verse 20 - God is the One who owns all power and ability and it's His power, not ours, that brings great things.
Verse 21 - All glory must go to Him, to Jesus, and never ever to any man or thing!

I'm reminded of the Sunday School song, "Deep And Wide".  I have memories of singing this song along with the hand motions during Vacation Bible School at a little Pentecostal church on the North side of Birmingham, near the area where I grew up.  It was one of my favorite songs that we would sing each night.  It is also a song that I taught my girls when they were small and now I sing it with my grandchildren.  "Deep and wide, deep and wide, there's a fountain flowing deep and wide, Deep and wide, deep and wide, there's a fountain flowing deep and wide."

The words are simple and don't offer any explanation of the meaning.  I like to think that it means there's a flow that comes from heaven, from the throne of God's grace and mercy, that is so vast and expansive that we could never explore nor cover all of it.  It is a river of life flowing freely for all who will jump in and partake of its refreshing power.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Humble Pursuit

Isaiah 55:6 (NIV)  "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near."

It may sound as if God can't be found at times, or that sometimes He is afar off according to this scripture, however, God is omnipresent - He is everywhere at all times.  David makes this statement in Psalms 139:7 (NIV)  "Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?"  David fully understood that there was nowhere on earth that he could hide from God.

Isaiah is referring to the fact that there are times when we are more conscious of God than others.  It is at those times that we need to reach out to Him, to pull upon His manifest presence while we are most aware of it.  His presence being manifest among us is a work of grace in response to our hunger.  God responds to His children hungering and thirsting after Him!

A. W. Tozer said, "The Presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same.  There can be the one without the other.  God is here when we are wholly unaware of it.  He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His presence.  On our part, there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son."

This can also explain why there may be times when one person 'feels' the presence of God while others in the same room seem oblivious to 'feeling' anything at all.  It is the condition and the pursuit of one's heart that God responds to, He is a God to heart God.  I believe that a person's pursuit and worship of God cannot be limited to certain methods nor certain outward expressions, likewise, when God's presence is felt, neither can a person's responses be contained nor limited to certain actions.

James 4:10 (NIV)  "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."  This is the main ingredient for experiencing the presence of God, humbleness.  Man cannot approach God in his pride and arrogance and expect God to bless it, we must come to God in humbleness and repentance, for we are mere flesh, and He is Almighty!

May we seek Him humbly and find Him!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sheep Know Their Shepherd

John10:27 (NIV)  "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

The Bible uses sheep to represent people in many places.  The first passage of scripture that comes to my mind is Psalm 23.  David, who was a shepherd himself and certainly knew about sheep, talks about the Lord as the Shepherd.  He relates how that everything the Lord does for the sheep is for their good.

Jesus' words in John 10 says that His sheep listen to His voice and follow Him.  It is interesting to know that sheep have an excellent memory.  They can remember as many as fifty faces for up to two years.  They have a keen recall of unpleasant experiences, too, so they would easily reject someone who has been cruel to them.  Another interesting fact about sheep is that they have an excellent sense of hearing.  This could be one reason Jesus assuredly compares His followers to sheep, their hearing is keen, they remember His face and they will not follow anyone who has treated them wrongly.

If we have experienced anything hurtful, it has been at the hands of man, not of the loving, caring Shepherd.  Sadly, we often attribute our hurtful experiences to God, blaming Him wrongfully for the actions of humans.  It would help if we would familiarize ourselves with the attributes and characteristics of the Lord, as David so wisely penned in Psalms, then we could more easily recognize our Great Shepherd.

Psalm 23 (NIV)  "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quite waters, he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's Not Too Late

Joel 2:12 (NIV)   "The Lord said: It isn't too late.  You can still return to me with all your heart."

If there is anything that can be sure about God, it is that He longs to have every human come to Him.  He created man in the first place to have fellowship with Him, but God cannot commune with sin, so when man disobeyed, sinned, and brought sin into the perfect world God had created, there had to be a way to breach or bridge the gap that came between God and man.  In the Old Testament, it was through offerings and sacrifices of lambs and bulls, but humans were unable to keep the Law, they just kept adding to the Law, making it all the more impossible to live.

All through the Old Testament, God reveals His plan to send the Messiah, the perfect sacrifice for mankind.  In each book, Genesis through Malachi, there is a consistent thread, a type and shadow, that predicts God will send Jesus to redeem and save man.

God always has and always will be the Father standing at the end of the road watching to see if today his child will come home.  He has made every provision possible that we may know Him and be in right relationship with Him, even to the point of giving His only Son as the sacrifice, the Holy Lamb of God whose blood could cover our sin.

As the scripture in the book of Joel says, "it isn't too late".  This is good news!  No matter how far down we may have gone, God says it's NOT too late to come back to Him with all our heart.

Luke 15:11-24 (King James Bible)  The Parable of the Lost Son
vs. 20  And he arose, and came to his father.  But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  21  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.  22  But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  23  and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry.  24  for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.  And they began to be merry.

It's not too late!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I Love Church

Psalm 27:4 (NIV)  "The one thing I ask of the Lord - the thing I seek most - is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life."

I truly believe that there's not many who love to attend church as much as I do!  As a child growing up, we didn't attend church as often as I wished.  We weren't members of any one church, but attended here and there, mostly revival meetings and oh those wonderful open air tent meetings!!  I have memories of my grandmother, my mother and I going to those exciting revivals in tents.  Mother would bring me a couple of toys and a book to draw in or coloring book with crayons, a thermos of something cold to drink and snacks, usually consisting of cheese and crackers, cookies and maybe a sandwich.  There would be wood shavings on the ground and Mother would lay out a small blanket (a pallet, she called it) on top of the shavings and I would play or eventually lay down to sleep.  I loved the singing and the boisterous praises that people would shout to God.  I would try to imitate them and sing along, raising my hands and shouting, too.  It was in one these type of meetings that I went to the altar at age eleven and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  My favorite aunt, Dorothy, was with us that night.  She was a mighty prayer warrior and led many to meet Jesus.  She went with me to kneel before the Lord and led me in asking Jesus inside my heart.  I was on such a heavenly cloud that night that I wished I could live in that church service from that moment on.  I can just imagine the Psalmist David feeling the same way as he penned this scripture.  It's the desire to remain in the presence of a Holy God.  A church building or structure is nothing without God's presence.  Sadly, this is the state of many localities where God should be present.  Sure, it can be nice to learn and hear about God, but to experience Him is so much more.

I believe that the largest amount of God's presence that we can feel only pales in comparison to what it will be like in heaven.  There, God's presence will be fully felt with nothing withheld from us.  Our human bodies would not be able to experience His fullness here on earth and live.  In Exodus 33, Moses was on the mountain with God to receive the commandments for His people.  Moses begged of God to see all of His glory.  God told him that no man could see His face and live, but there was a place near Him where he could stand on a rock and when He passed by, He would put Moses in the cleft of that rock, cover him with His hand and after He had passed by, he could see His back.  Since everything in the Old Testament is a type and shadow of things to come, then I believe that the rock God is telling Moses about is Jesus who is near to God.

Oh God, hide us in the cleft of the rock, that we may see you!!  We long for Your presence, for in that presence is joy and peace, healing and deliverance, salvation and love.  Truly, one day in Your house is better than thousands elsewhere!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jesus Floats My Boat!

Luke 8:24 (NIV)  "The disciples woke him up, shouting "Master, Master we're going to drown!"  So Jesus rebuked the wind and the raging waves. The storm stopped and all was calm!"

It wasn't an unusual event for Jesus and the disciples to go out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  This body of water, according to Wikipedia was also referred to as Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias.  It is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, 33 miles in circumference, about 13 miles long, and 8.1 miles wide.  The lake has a maximum depth of approximately 141 feet.  It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake overall after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake.  The lake is fed partly by underground springs although its main source is the Jordan River which flows through it from north to south.  In other words, it is and was in that day, a very large body of water.

Now if you have ever been on the water when a storm comes up, you will understand the fear these disciples felt.  The larger the body of water the fiercer the effects of the wind.  Obviously, these men who were accustomed to life on the lake, were not easily shaken, so this must have been quite a dangerous situation.  The point in this story that stands out is the fact that Jesus was asleep during this storm!  They didn't have a boat with a nice comfy cabin below the deck equipped with a cushioned bed and all the lovelies of home like many modern boats, Jesus was asleep in an open, wooden rig, void of comforts in the midst of a dangerous storm that was about to capsize them!  I would call this behavior a huge absence of fear!!

The disciples woke Him and He immediately calmed the storm that was raging all around!  Just a word from Jesus and the wind ceased.  His rebuke calmed the surge of the waves that had threatened to take them down.  What a wonderful thing to have Jesus in the boat!

Life is very much like the Sea of Galilee.  Some days it is sunny and calm, all is good.  Other days, there's a storm raging, all is not so good.  Some days, the fish are plentiful and others, no fish can be found.  On one such occasion in Luke 5, Simon Peter, who was a fisherman by trade, had toiled all night with no fish to show for it.  Jesus showed up on the shore and told him to go out deep and let down his nets.  When Simon did as Jesus said, he caught so many fish that he had to call for help from another boat.  There were so many fish in his nets that they filled both ships to the point of nearly sinking the boats!

We need to keep Jesus in our boat and meet with Him continually on the shore for direction in our lives.  He is the the calm to our storms and the provider for our needs!  He IS peace!  He IS provision!

Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. 
-George Mueller