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.