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Friday, March 23, 2012

Aha Moments

Have you ever felt like you were in exactly the right place at exactly the right time?  Did you comment to yourself "What a coincidence!"  I used to say these things too until I began to realize that our God is strategic and intentional.  Needless to say, I no longer believe in coincidence and I no longer attribute divine appointments to happenstance.

From the beginning of time, God has been using people to accomplish his works and demonstrate His greatness.  There is nothing more exciting then the moment in time in which we are able to declare understanding of God's works simply by our obedience to act.  In return, we experience the "aha moment," a brief revelation from God's Holy Spirit as to why we were in a certain place at an exact moment in time.

One of the greatest examples in the bible of being in the right place at the right time is found in the story of Esther.  Esther having risen to power to wear the title of Queen was strategically positioned to save her Jewish people from the slaughter dictated by King Xerxes right hand man, Haman.  King Xerxes had elevated Haman's position of importance to such a great magnitude that he ordered all royal officials at his gate to bow down and pay homage to him.

Esther, having lost her parents as a young girl, was raised by her Uncle Mordecai.  Mordecai's faithfulness and obedience to the Lord was far greater than his feelings of loyalty to a man such as Haman.  When Mordecai refused to honor Haman by bowing to acknowledge his greatness, Haman issued a decree to have him murdered, but he didn't stop there.  He ordered that every living Jew, residing in all of King Xerxes nearby provinces, be slaughtered as well.  Mordecai quickly learned of his peoples impending demise and thus sought the help of his adopted daughter, Esther.  His words in chapter 4 verse 13 are pivotal.  Mordecai says,"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (NIV).

Mordecai knew through faith that God would protect His chosen people with this acknowledgement "if you don't do something, God will raise up someone who will!"  Esther now had a choice, remain silent risking her own life, as well as those of all her people; or petition the king to request a change in the decree.  Mordecai poses the question that perhaps Esther's life circumstances have all lead to this very moment in time, in which God has called her to something much greater than herself.  Esther, through her willingness and obedience to act, not only spared her own life, but the lives of thousands of others.  In addition, the evil plotting Haman, received his proper punishment for planning such ill will based on his own foolish pride.

God is looking for His people to rise up and act when prompted by His Holy Spirit.  God has plans to use us and the only way we can help Him accomplish His will is to know Him.  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 states, "With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of His calling, and that by His power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.  We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Our aha moments are precious gifts from God.  It is in these moments that God validates our position and acknowledges our willing hearts by using us to accomplish all things in His will, only to reveal His glory as witness to others.

I am so glad to have been able to experience some of God's aha moments in my life and have been even more blessed by my awareness of aha moments in the lives of others.  It has given me an opportunity to explain these moments as being attributed to God's divine intervention rather than mere coincidence.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Call to Duty...

In the book of Nehemiah we are told that day after day, from the first day to the last,  Ezra the scribe read from the book of the Law of God.  Beginning in chapter 9 verse 6, Ezra begins to exalt God and explain His magnificence.  Ezra provides details of God's work from the beginning of His creation, to His covenant with Abraham, to the freedom of His people from Egyptian slavery and finally to the issuing of His Laws and regulations; the 10 Commandments.  Then in verse 16, we begin to hear of the arrogance developing in the leaders and their refusal to obey God's commands.  This pattern continues throughout Ezra's teaching.  God demonstrates his abundant grace and love in consistently giving his people a chance to turn from their idolatrous ways and seek Him in all things to be deemed worthy of His blessings.  The people once again find favor with God and are at peace until in verse 28 we read, "But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight."  This pattern of blessings and consequences continues every time the people cry out.  

The two verses that stand out to me the most are 36 and 37.  "But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces.  Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us.  They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please.  We are in great distress."

Is America not facing similar distress today with her religious freedoms slowly being eroded by the continued creation of big government and the election of leaders whose priorities deny God of his rightful authority?

Every day in the news, we are bombarded with the moral decline of society.  A battle between man's worldly desires and God's divinely bestowed liberties clash like cymbals.  The language in verse 36 is clear "we are like slaves in the land...Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us."  The state of our country is not God's fault.  It is our fault.  It has been our choosing to make decisions contrary to God's law.  Furthermore, we have remained silent and passionless as our Savior is crucified daily for our feeble attempts to curb sins such as abortion.  Part of the consequences we must now face are to be ruled over in such a way as to create a level of distress that we cry out to God for a reprieve from our circumstances.  Food and gas prices are becoming unbearable, government regulations are close to sanctioning the air we breathe, health care will no longer be a free market and the uncompromising effort to completely remove the work on the cross is relentless.

About a year ago on my way to work, I was listening to Christian talk radio when all of a sudden I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to answer a question.  The question was this, "Where will you set up your stand?"  This was very odd to me at the time and I did not quite understand what was being asked of me.  As the day lingered, I received a vision of a lemonade stand.  This was even more odd.  Finally, as the day came to a close, God must have realized I needed a little more help than usual with this one.  It wasn't so much the answer God was looking for to his question of "Where will you set up your stand?"  It was, "Once I position you, what will you stand for?"  This was God revealing to me His direction for my life.  He had a plan and He wanted me to be willing to surrender to it so that He could use me to glorify his purpose in my position.

No matter what job we are doing, in whatever location, God wants us to make a conscious choice to stand and preserve his laws of righteousness.  The bible spells them out clearly and God loves His people.  It is because of His love for us that He offered these laws as a shield of protection.  God blesses those who honor His position as central in authority over all things.  If we don't stand to protect and preserve the laws in which God has put in place, we will soon be subject to the rules and laws of man.  Man is sinful and God is sinless.  Ask God to position you, joyfully accept your placement, and heed your call to duty to STAND!



Monday, March 19, 2012

A Day in the Life of Our Lord...

Have you ever wondered if God has rested since the 7th day?  Think about it.  Ever since the creation of the world, God has been busy with his greatest love, his people.  God has already written and published a book for every life from beginning to end.  I don't know about you, but I have a hard enough time living my own story yet alone managing the lives of millions. 

Imagine God at his throne in heaven seated before a giant telephone switchboard.  Not just any old switchboard like what today's technology would bring, but the old fashioned kind that you have to plug and chug every time a new call comes in.  God's people are busy living their lives, running here and there, not paying much attention to their Creator or his creations. 

Now without any acknowledgement or guidance in our lives from God, we do a pretty good job of messing things up.  We get caught up in selfish attitudes, unhealthy relationships, and poor decision-making.  Every time we make a bad choice in life, God has to do extra work at the switchboard to get us back on track.  He has to call in the cleaners to help us learn from our mistakes by walking with us through the consequences of our disobedience.  Sometime we are accepting of God's outstretched hand and sometimes we are resistant.  Every time we resist God's help or divine wisdom for direction in our lives, we put God back to work at the switchboard.  I wonder if God likes all this overtime?

Currently, the sins of this world are grieving God's heart.  Not only is He now working seven days a week, but he is also putting in well over 12 hour days.  Who could maintain this level of insanity?  Let me answer this for you.  God can.

How many times in our lives do we simply step back and realize their is someone far greater at work with more wisdom, more knowledge, more love, more grace, more patience, more understanding, and more power than any one human could ever possess?  The Lord God knows our problems, trials, and life challenges and he has asked us to give them up to find rest and peace in Him.  Mathew 11:28-30
28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (NIV)

I am so thankful that God is ready, willing, and able to make another call on my behalf.  Today however, I am going to give God a break.  I am going to seek Him, thank Him, pray to Him, petition Him and honor Him with my praises.  I am going to trust God and listen to His promptings to make good choices today, not only for my best interests, but for the interests of others as well.  I am going to tame my tongue, turn up my inner light to the level of a blazing flame and I am going to live the life he has called me to.  God, today is all about you.  Push your chair back, kick your feet up, close your eyes and rest.  Today is a day of revival and the office is closed.  There is no work to be done, but to enjoy the fruit of your people!



Friday, March 16, 2012

Testimony Must Accompany Transformation

Psalm 107:  Has the Lord redeemed you?  Then speak out!

Look at the exclamation point at the end of the above statement, SPEAK OUT!  Throughout the bible we see evidence of God's power changing the hearts and minds of His people. 

When I first fell in love with having a relationship with Jesus, many of the common Christian concepts were foreign to me.  As I would sit in Sunday school or listen in life group, I would hear people speaking of this thing called testimony or being "born again."  They would make comments like, "The Holy Spirit led me; I was spirit filled and God spoke to my heart."  I was bewildered at these statements and even felt passed over by God because He had never spoken to my heart and what was this testimony people were speaking about? 

These things were unfamiliar to me because I had never read God's word nor understood the meaning of having a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Remember in a previous post, I commented about being raised Catholic and even attending Catholic school.  I took a class in high school called Biblet, which was to teach me about the bible.  The problem was other people were providing me their view of Bible history and education; I was not reading the bible myself and I certainly wasn't praying. 

There is a reason the bible is referred to as the "Living Word of God."  When a person begins to seek God through prayer, read His word daily, and begins to accept His ways, answers are revealed to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We become more readily aware of our sinful nature and the Lord begins a process of transformation in our lives so that we can live more like Jesus and less like ourselves. 

Someone once asked me, "What is the anniversary date of the moment in time in which you knew you were saved?  When was it that you first realized you had accepted Jesus and knew the Spirit of God had taken residence within you?"  My response to myself was probably "Huh" because I did not make note of a very specific day or time.  My realization was that a transformation was taking place in my life and it was continuous and ongoing.  God didn't save me in one single day and then say "OK, it is finished."  He shows me daily ways in which to improve my character and ways to love deeper those people that he longs to draw closer to Him. 

I remember sobbing one day on the way out of church.  I literally had to sit down and get a hold of myself.  My husband was asking me what was wrong and he may have felt somewhat embarrassed.  That day God had revealed such a hidden sin that I was overwhelmed with shame by the way I had acted for so long.  The sin revealed was the way in which I had sucked the life out of my husband's hopes and dreams by constantly reminding him of our financial limitations.  I think I about killed his spirit completely.  This was the first major communing I had with the Holy Spirit.  God began to reveal his plan to mold me in his image so that I could be used through the power of my very own testimony to help influence the lives of others.

As I recall, I think it was probably one whole year in which I found myself crying every Sunday.  A song would touch my heart or the Pastor's teaching would feel like he was speaking directly to me and I would simply break down knowing I had lived contrary to God's word.  The work Jesus completed on the cross was so amazing and humbling to me that I simply felt unworthy to even stand in my Holy God's presence.  This of course was before I truly started to understand God's abounding love for me through his never ending forgiveness when I confessed my sins at the foot of the cross. 

For the first time, I realized this amazing testimony was beginning to accompany my transformation into being a follower of Jesus Christ.  My old sinful ways were being washed away and I was being made new in His image.  I was being "Born Again" and I loved it! 

In John 3:3 Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (NIV)  The born again transformation is the only clear evidence we have in our lives to demonstrate God's Holy presence within us.  Mathew 7:20 says, "Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (NIV)  This fruit being referred to is the evidence of transformation.  This fruit is the ways in which our sinful actions fall away and we begin living life to closely mimic Jesus, his teachings and his love for others.  

Perhaps the greatest transformation in biblical teaching is that of Paul's conversion.  Who else but God could have changed the heart of a man who so despised Christians that he took every opportunity to have them killed and tortured in order to outwardly demonstrate his absolute disdain for their beliefs.  In one moment in time on Paul's way to Damascus, God revealed himself to Paul and began the most radical change in bible history.  Acts 9:15-16  "But the Lord said to Ananias, Go!  This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (NIV) 

It is clear from this passage that our transformation is not about us.  It is solely about God using our transformation to help others come to know Him.  What a powerful statement God makes, "I will show him (Paul) how much he must suffer for my name."  How many of us would be willing to suffer for God without knowing him first?  By the end of Paul's journey in his relationship with the Lord, his life meant nothing to him and God's will meant everything!   

God's testimony in our lives is the Power he gives us to glorify Him.  Has the Lord redeemed you?  Then SPEAK OUT!  Do not deny God of his rightful position in your life.  His plan is perfect.  I will leave you with this scripture to meditate on: 

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)  "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."  God's one and only goal is to bring His people to Him, transform them, and use them for His continued efforts to show his love to His people by offering them salvation through Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are You Singing a New Song?

The testimony of true transformation that takes place in a Christian's life is brought about by the singing of a new song.  Five times in scripture, we are made aware of the singing of a new song to indicate a transformation from bondage in sin, to freedom in righteousness through Jesus Christ.  The first time we read of this is in Psalm 40: 1-3  "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." (NIV)  In Psalm 98:1 again we read, "Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things;..."  And finally Psalm 149:1 "Praise the Lord.  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints."  We will pick this context up again later in regard to the assembly of the saints when we look at Revelation 5:9 and 14:3.

Our Heavenly Father longs to do good works in us.  He is a God of greatness and truth who has many wonderful things to share with us.  When God pierces our hearts with the knowledge of the love that springs forth from the work Jesus completed on the cross, suddenly there exists the beginning of a rebirth in our spirit.  We start to see things from a different perspective, from a Godly perspective.  The Holy Spirit who enters our hearts and minds, because we have accepted Christ as our Savior, begins to go to work in helping us on our journey through a great transformation.  Each day, more and more of our human fleshly sinful nature dies away as we are restored with joy and peace of the promises our God has shared with us in His word.

John 3: 30 says, "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less."  In order for us to experience everything God has to offer, we must be open to God revealing the sin in our lives, so that we can be made anew, born again, nourished with an obedient spirit and a new hope in Christ Jesus.  There is no doubt that sin holds us bondage in a spirit of condemnation, defeat, depression, addiction, and discouragement.  The acceptance of a Savior allows God the opportunity to go to work to restore us to an intended position created to serve Him.  This may seem difficult to understand at first, but God had great plans for our lives even before we were a thought.  We know this because Psalm 139:13 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb...(16) "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  In the books of Job and Jeremiah, we again revisit this topic of predestination.

I love Psalm 31, verses 11 and 12, "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever."  Here again we are blessed with the evidence of a new beginning in a believer's life.  No more is the sadness and despair of a dying world keeping the believer from finding the joy through singing the Praises of our God.

It is no wonder, that the singing of a new song is lastly mentioned in the book of revelation.  Revelation is the fulfillment of God's final completion of his plan.  It is only fitting for the saints to partake in a new song (Rev 5:9) as the Lord Jesus re-establishes His kingdom and reclaims victory over all the world. The overwhelming excitement that must have been taking place in the kingdom of Heaven in which the saints could not contain themselves from the witness of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and King.  Revelation 14:3 is the final mention of a new song, "And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders."

Friends, if you are proclaiming the title of born again Christian or a follower or believer of Jesus Christ, then your CD has got to start playing a new song.  Transformation on a daily basis is the absolute evidence that Christ is alive and well in your heart.  Continuing to be under a spirit of condemnation, discouragement and despair over worldly issues crushes the spirit of God attempting to work within us.  Transformation in Christ is truly evident when we as believers can live in a sense of peace that our Savior knows exactly what he is doing in each and every one of our lives and that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

I have always had a love for poetry.  I tried for many years to write my thoughts into poetic verse, but they just seemed to be mediocre at best.  One day after 10 years of marriage, God seemed to bless me with His words for my life.  He brought me healing from past hurts and mistakes and opened my eyes to a life that included him for the first time.  God showed me a correlation between not knowing Him in my marital relationship and truly not knowing my Husband either.  This Poem was titled "The Thought of  Knowing You."

As God continued an amazing work in my life, one year later, He blessed me with words for a new poem.  I had prayed that hearts and lives would be touched by my testimony through my first poem.  I cried out to God, "Why did you give me these words if they were never to bless anyone but me?"  As an answer to my prayer, He put my cries into a new poem.  I had hoped these poems would become songs, because that's how I felt they were intended, as well as written.  It is no surprise that God spoke to my heart with the title of my second Poem as "Hope for a New Song."  It wasn't until recently that I began to see a correlation in my own transformation to those scriptures that also introduce the promise of a New Song.  I would like to share with you my poem in the hopes that someone will be touched with a blessing from God in the realization that his work is not done!


Thank You Jesus for the words birthed into my heart,
For the dreams you inspired till death due us part.
For the vision, the destiny and passion to be, the hour has come to rise to Thee;
So take off your mask and bow to your King!

A joyful new beginning, a brand new triumph, the mighty hand of God reaching out!
So look up!  Look up to thee, for you were blessed before you came to be,
A prophet to the nations is what you were deemed.

So Thank You Jesus for the words birthed into my heart,
For the dreams you inspired until death due us part.
For the vision the destiny and passion to be,
The hour has come to rise to thee;
So take off your mask and bow to your King!

Endless longing to hear your voice,
A song, a tune, a string of notes,
What is this gift without your touch?
I cry out to you for the world to hear, for the world to see,
For the Glory you have reflected in me!
Let the world come to know you through a melody.

So Thank You Jesus for the words birthed into my heart,
For the dreams you inspired till death do us part,
For the vision, the destiny, and passion to be, the hour has come to rise to Thee;
So take off your mask and bow to your King!
The hope for a New Song is all we need.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Stand in the Gap

As believers in Christ, we were given a great commission with a serious responsibility to go out into the world and preach the good news of the gospel.  Mathew, Mark, Luke and John wrote of Jesus time with them before ascending into heaven.  Mark and Luke's final writings particularly grabbed my attention.

First let's look at Mark 16:15-20  He (Jesus) said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will accompany those who believe:  In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."  (19) After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.  Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (NIV)

As you will read, Jesus awarded the authority to his disciples to perform signs and wonders in his name as long as one believed.  Jesus kept his promise to his disciples by providing evidence (miracles, signs and wonders) of the confirmed acts.  In other words, He allowed his disciples to perform miracles upon the belief in his Holy name.

In Luke 24: 48-49  Jesus says, "You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on High."  Here again Luke writes of this Power being promised by Jesus, so that His disciples could continue His work through all creation.  In Mathew 28: 20 Jesus says "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

When I first read these scriptures, I was intrigued and maybe even envious that God had bestowed this great ability for his chosen servants to perform miracles in order to display His glory throughout the world.  I believed these gifts were only given to the disciples for the time and age in which they lived.  As I read closer, my thoughts changed.  Jesus commissioned his believers to continue his work through all of creation, to the very end of the age.  Imagine my excitement upon the realization of this message being for today!  Everyday miracles are performed through the calling on and belief in the name of Jesus Christ.  Through faith, people release God's power and allow his works to demonstrate his glory and love for his people.

Here is a simple story in which I had the privilege to stand in the gap, to pray, believing through faith, for God's healing to touch the life of a little dog.

My husband and I own a dog training business.  One of our classes consisted of 2 little girls and their small lap dogs.  We were teaching the girls and their dogs simple obedience.  We were so blessed to witness the love between our young clients and their dogs, and their efforts to strengthen their bond with their pets.  After 6 sessions, we graduated them being very proud of their progress.

Not much more than a month later, I received a text message late at night indicating one of the dogs, along with it's mate (whom we did not train) had been let outside for their last late night potty.  A coyote lurking near the house, snatched up one of the little dogs and most likely began to shake it violently.  The other little dog having heard the cries for help, ran to it's friend's aid.  Both dogs were injured and taken quickly to the closest emergency surgical vet center.  Mind you, this was one week before Christmas.

The dog we did not train, had surgery and was on the mend rather quickly.  Buddy, the Yorkshire Terrier, however, was fighting for his life.  The surgical staff could not perform surgery because Buddy was not stable.  They insisted the family wait to see him because he was so weak.  It was believed that Buddy had a punctured lung and was being kept in an oxygen tank.

My friend contacted me to provide updates.  She informed me the families of both little girls were extremely distraught over the possibility of losing Buddy.  Our little girl, who performed her obedience with Buddy became a star student and she was begging her family to hold on.  The surgical center had informed the family that if Buddy did not show signs of improvement soon, the odds of him making it were slim.  My friend asked me to please contact the mother of Buddy to offer support and advice since I had had many dogs go through surgery.  Unfortunately, I had also had the horrible job of putting many dogs to sleep when it seemed to be their time.  My friend wanted me to advise the family about how they would know when to stop fighting and to let Buddy go.

That evening I contacted the mother and we spoke about Buddy's condition.  She indicated his prognosis had not changed much and they were running out of financial options to be able to pay the bill.  Buddy had been in the hospital for almost 4 days without hardly any improvement.  Being a born again believer, I challenged her to choose life for Buddy.  I felt an overwhelming sense in my spirit that Buddy was going to make it.  I requested the family go and see Buddy since the hospital had been so restrictive in limiting their time for visits to only a few minutes.  The next words that came out of my mouth were, "Can I pray for you?"

It was now one day prior to Christmas Eve and Mom did not want her daughter to lose her best friend on Christmas.  Mom agreed, and I began to pray in the name of Jesus Christ that healing be imminent for this puppy.  I reminded God this creature was His creation and this family greatly loved and adored their little dog.  I petitioned God for Buddy to be strengthened to be able to endure surgery.  I asked God to acknowledge our value on life and to let his will be done.  I praised God for his greatness in being able to move mountains and part seas.

By Christmas Eve I received a report that Buddy had improved, surgery had been scheduled, and he was even able to go outside long enough to go potty on his own.  God had heard and answered my prayers.

I believe as Christians we are called to stand in the gap!  God wants to use us to open the eyes of non-believers to help draw them closer to Him.  We are reminded in Philippians 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (NIV)  Mark 11:24 says, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."  (Mind you, the things asked for must be in God's will.  One cannot request God to provide something that would go against His laws).

God's promises for his disciples to perform signs and wonders are alive and well today.  Don't miss a prompting in your spirit to heed a request from God.  You may miss an opportunity to witness or perform a miracle that will change the course of a life.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Little Dust on Your Bible

I was thinking the other day how many times I have visited the house of a new friend or acquaintance and noticed a cross on the wall, a bible on the shelf, or a biblical scripture verse cited on a painting or a picture.  My thoughts took me back to my own life.  I was born and raised Catholic, attended church on a regular basis, went to CCD classes, graduated from a private catholic school, and received the blessing of the sacraments.  As I ventured out on my own, graduated from college, married and moved into my first house, I displayed this crucifix on my wall as if I was doing my part in honoring God.  I of course believed in God and the cross was a nice symbol to have in my home, but outside of this symbol, what was I doing to live out and practice my faith?  Nothing!

My understanding of a relationship with Jesus Christ did not come until I was 36 years old.  My husband and I had many challenges in our relationship as most young couples do.  Our primary issues usually revolved around the ways in which to raise our son.  We simply seemed as though we were living in foreign countries because of the differences in our upbringings.  In a sense, we were in culture shock with one another.  Our communication skills might easily have been compared to speaking in tongues, only without the presence of the Holy Spirit to provide interpretation.  We were communicating in different languages. 

As much as we tried, we simply could not resolve some of our long standing debates about how to accomplish our goals as a couple.  So one day in 2008, as I was traveling down one of the main highways to our house, I recalled numerous conversations with a friend.  She had requested I come check out her church.  In the past, we had every excuse in the book for why not to attend church:  "The people were judgemental; we did not have the right clothes; it took up too much of our valuable time on Sunday; we did not have anything to give; and how was the church going to solve our problems?"  Some how, I made up my mind on that day, we as a family were going to church.  So we did.

We began attending a Christian Apostolic church.  This was much different from the Catholic church I had attended all my life.  There was something so odd about loud music, clapping and shouting.  Thoughts of a being in a cult did cross my mind and once again I was out of my element and in culture shock.  But God was doing something to open my heart to draw me closer to his.  I remember one day being in church as I was getting more and more accustomed to the dynamics and culture of Christianity, the Holy Spirit asked me, "Are you ashamed of me?"   From that day forward my reservations surrounding worship became uninhibited. Praising and honoring God took on a whole new meaning.  There was no longer this cloud of embarrassment or shame for the freedom of childlike worship.  I could clap my hands and shout if I wanted and I would not be seen as a freak.  I began to experience a great transformation in my life.  I had an insatiable urge to be in the word of God everyday.  Feverishly I took notes on content and scriptures that applied to my life.  I started praying daily, asking God for forgiveness, guidance, and hope.  My life needed a new priority list and God needed to be at the top. 

One year later, my son, husband and I decided to get baptized.  I was now fully aware of the meaning of being "Born Again."  Slowly Jesus had begun to wash away all of life's discouragement, brokenness, and bondage.  Each day became a little easier knowing that someone else had my back.  The decisions I began to make at work were all filtered through "What would Jesus do?"  I began noticing a new level of discernment concerning not only my own decisions, but those of others.  I could almost immediately predict potential future consequences of going against God's word.  My eyes were open to those around me that did not experience the same hope in Jesus as I did.  Somewhere along my journey, I had given the steering wheel of my life over to the Lord.  I had driven for far too long on my own and I had made quite the mess of my life with poor decision making.  I am by no means saying that I don't still make mistakes, but it is a lot easier to pick myself up depending on God's grace and glory, then to start again by myself. 

The whole point of this story revolves around playing Christian.  You can display signs and symbols in your house, on your clothes and on your car, but are you living and experiencing the very things that you claim have meaning in your life?  I can proudly say, I have a whole shelf on my bookcase dedicated to books that my husband and I have read (at least 5 of these books are different versions of the bible).  We not only have read them, but we study them and work to incorporate biblical message into our lives so that we can always be striving to improve the closeness of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  The cross on my wall now carries a much deeper meaning than at any other time in my life; and my screen saver reminds me daily, the price Jesus paid for my sins so that I could enjoy something so much greater after this world falls away.      

You cannot truly own the title of Christian, unless you are willing to dust off  your bible, walk the walk, talk the talk and grab hold of the truths of trusting and believing in a Savior.  There is a reason why Christians have great testimony regarding the transformation that takes place when they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  The changes we make in our lives can only be accomplished with genuine forgiveness, grace, mercy, and best of all Love.  I am certain that no human being or self help book can 100% offer these qualities.  This is why Jesus did what he did on the cross, so that we could experience all of this and so much more.  Don't let the religious symbols in your life just be symbols.  Let them begin to display the trust and faith you have in a committed relationship with your Savior. 

Prayer to start:  Lord, I know of you, but I don't know you.  I have an emptiness that  I have tried to fill on my own, but it never seems to go away.  Something is missing and I think that something is you.  Please forgive me for not taking the time to truly understand your place in my life.  I am broken and I long to feel whole.  Lord I ask you today, to give me a chance at knowing you.  Please help me to see your ways as my ways.  I am ready for a new beginning.  I am ready to do the things necessary to change the sin in my life, but I need your help.  Lord I cannot do this on my own, so please take the steering wheel of my life and gently lead me down the path you have created solely for me.  I have passed my bible sitting on my shelf daily and I need your wisdom to understand the words and meaning behind your teachings.  Thank you for loving me enough to help.



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jesus as the Cornerstone

What is the significance of Jesus being referred to as the "Cornerstone?"  In the New Testament Jesus as the Cornerstone is mentioned 6 times.  Whenever a message is repetitive, we should pay close attention because it is of great importance that we find understanding in its meaning.

Here is some history and background information about the meaning of the cornerstone.  Cornerstone also means foundation stone.  It is the first stone set in place in the construction of a masonry foundation.  All other stones are set in reference to this one stone.  The entire structure is determined by the placement of the cornerstone.  Today, it is very common for ceremonies to accompany the placement of the cornerstone.  In times past, these ceremonies included sacrifices on, around, or under the stone.  Sacrifices ranged from grain, wine and oil, to human and animal. The significance of the living sacrifice was to allow the blood to flow on the foundation, thus giving the meaning of strength and stability to the rest of the structure soon to be erected. Afterward the sacrifice was buried under the cornerstone.

Is this starting to sound somewhat familiar?  Is it any wonder that Jesus was referred to as the Cornerstone of his chosen people, his church.  Jesus offered his blood sacrifice as a foundation of truth for his people to stand on.  Not only are we to be strengthened, but we are to rely on his word and testimony to help us endure during life's most difficult moments.

Psalm 118:22 is the first time in the bible that we are shown reference to the cornerstone.  The verse is as follows:  "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone (another word used interchangeably for cornerstone); the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes." 

Jesus walked the earth a humble teacher, yet his words held great power to a people full of pride.  He did not travel from place to place on a gallant steed displaying a wardrobe fit for a king, adorned with ornate jewels.  He entered the city of Jerusalem on a colt of a donkey.  Would the high and mighty Sanhedrin and Pharisees expect the King of the world to ride in on a donkey?  I love 1 Corinthians 1:27 "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."  Jesus was by no means weak, but to the world he was a threat, so the people constantly worked to discredit his character to make him appear weak so that his following would lessen. 

Mathew 21:42, Mark 12:10, and Luke 20:17 all reiterate the passage of Jesus being raised as a cornerstone and yet rejected by the builders (his own Jewish people).  In Acts 4:11, Peter again states this message clearly and warns the people that Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."  Of course, Peter is referring to Jesus, the atoning sacrifice.  Again he picks up this same dialogue in his speech in 1Peter 2:7.  No one else in the history of mankind carried the weight of the sins of the world, was willing to die a torturous death, so that his people, whom he loved so unconditionally, could behold something greater than what is of this world.  Not only did Jesus go to the cross and suffer immeasurably, but he did it humbly without complaint.  This is the true character of a mighty King!      

Ephesians 2:19-22 is the final passage proclaiming, "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus  himself as the chief Cornerstone.  In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit." 

Jesus is the foundational truth for the building of his church, comprised of his people.  Everyone who believes unto Him, serves a very specific purpose in living out God's strategic plan for his people.  Jesus is different from the world and He has called his people out of the world to follow him.  We have to ask ourselves the question, "Is Jesus the foundation of my life?  Do I filter all of life's decisions through Him and His word?  Jesus teachings were designed to lay out a clear path for us to live by.  Are you instead holding on to the promises of the world?  In order to know the difference, one must be disciplined in reading the word of God daily.  How can we combat the pressures of the world, if we don't know what God has to say about them.  "I don't understand the bible!" is not a good excuse.  I have to go back again to Mathew 13:12, the word tells us, "To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an Abundance of Knowledge.  But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken from them.  That is why I (Jesus) use these parables."  The Lord promises an Abundance of Knowledge, not just a little bit.  He will reveal to you what you are capable of understanding, in a time frame in which you can handle.  All of this works together for our good so that we can make appropriate changes in our life to deepen our relationship with Christ.  Jesus knows his people are a work in progress.  He is not expecting perfection all at once.  He simply wants to be the foundational cornerstone that we hold to as we walk with him through life's journey.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Most people that have any foundation in Christianity have heard the story in Genesis of Cain and Abel.  This is the second time in the bible that we see the rising of good versus evil.  Obviously, the first occasion of this dynamic is in the garden with Adam and Eve and the serpent.

The most pivotal statement in the story of Cain and Abel is when God asks Cain where his brother is and Cain replies, "I don't know, Am I my brother's keeper?"  God gives Cain a chance to come clean and own up to his sin by asking him, "What have you done?"  Cain gives no response.  God already knew what Cain had done!

Through scripture, we know that God knew what Cain was going to do before he did it.  So what are these scriptures that support this?  Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Ephesians 1:4 "For He chose us in Him  before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Christ Jesus."  Acts 17:26  "And He made from one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, determining beforehand their appointed season and the boundaries of their dwelling."  The words predetermined, predestined, before and beforehand are used repeatedly in the Bible to show God's plan laid out from beginning to end.  These are just a few scriptures that continually remind us that God is in control, has always been in control, and will always be in control.  God is not surprised by anything.  The bible shows us through prophecy in the Old Testament those things that were predetermined and destined to take place because it was God's will and purpose. 

Some might ask, "So why didn't God stop the brutal murder of his innocent child, Abel?"  Two words answer that question:  Free Will.  God gave us free will to choose.  We always have a decision between light and dark, life and death, and good and evil.  God wants us to come to him willingly, not through coercion and he certainly loves us enough to allow us to learn from our mistakes.

So back to the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?"  The woes of this world would be so much less if we lived by this statement.  Corinthians 10:33 Paul says, "I don't just do what is best for me.  I do what is best for others, so that many may be saved."  If we look at the verse prior, Paul says, "Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the Church of God."  If we spent more time considering the consequences of our actions and how others would be affected, would we have such an incredible deficit; would we have so many on welfare; would we have so many cheating the system to try and wrongfully acquire disability or unemployment; would we have so many unborn babies murdered in and out of the womb; would we have genocide, infanticide, euthanasia, war, divorce, sexual disease, child abuse and neglect, irresponsible parenting, etc...  Need I go on?  The problems in this world are endless and they all go back to looking out for one another.  Being our brother's keeper requires us to place our selfish desires aside and consider the needs of others.  One of the greatest obstacles that prevents us from doing this is the judgement we pass on others.  Every being has a story, a significant story.  The author of all these stories is God.  Who are we to judge the life journey God has chosen for each of his creations.

Aside from loving God before anything or anyone else, our next job is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Love conquers a multitude of sins and it is a good place to start.  Examine the relationships in your life and perhaps take a new role of helper, comforter, advisor, mentor, teacher, listener or mediator.  Each one of us has special gifts and talents to bless another.  Let's not keep them to ourselves, but give God glory by using them to benefit the lives of others.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Foreigners in our Land

Today will hopefully be a much shorter post, but not any less controversial.  Today's topic addresses foreigners in our Land, specifically, illegal immigrants.  The last post about Truth has to be incorporated into this post.  When it comes to addressing the topic of illegal immigrants, we have to turn to the Truth for guidance.  The only real truth that exists today, the only truth that has Never been altered, is the inspired word of God, The Holy Bible.  In the book of Numbers Chapter 15 verse 13 we read "Everyone who is native born must to do these things in this way when he brings an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the Lord.  For the generations to come, whenever an alien or anyone else living among you presents an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the Lord, he must do exactly as you do.  The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.  You and the alien shall be the same before the Lord:  The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you."

What is so hard about applying this ordained law to today's dilemma of how to handle the issue with the United States border.  We are all children of God.  We are His children and he wants us to be beholding to the laws of the land that he set forth.  God has already given us the answers.  All we need to do is live by them.  God promises abundant blessings for those who follow his ways.  Come on USA, don't you see that when Laws are enforced and people choose to do the right thing, they will be blessed.  When foreigners come to our land, and they arrive legally and abide by the law, don't you think this is pleasing in the eyes of God and his hand of protection will be on them.  Foreigners come here to experience our freedom, our wealth and our opportunities.  Why do they not have to abide by our laws and embrace our culture.  It is our culture that has made this country great.  By assimilating other cultures that challenge our fundamental beliefs we run the risk of jeopardizing our freedom and our safety.  In essence he are thumbing our noses at God's divine ordinance.

Here is a very personal example of the consequences and blessings that can occur when we choose to do the right thing.  When we moved to our new house we wanted to be in a particular school district for our son.  The house was in the right county, but in the wrong school district.  At the time, we were ignorant about there being a difference in school boundaries versus county boundaries.  We bought our new house and learned a short time later that we were actually in the wrong district.  My heart sank.  I came up with a bunch of rationalizations to support my stream of lies that would support my decision to to keep my son in the school district that was not legal.  I keep referring to "I" because my husband was not on board with my lies."  I used my mother-in-law's address so that my son would not have to leave his friends.

Three or four years went by and we became compelled to return to church.  As our relationship with the Lord was strengthened, our hearts were convicted about our lie.  I had coached my young son to learn a new address, a new phone number, and we were very careful to not have certain friends to our house in case we would be caught by their parents.  We were sending our son a horrible message about lying.  I knew that we had to come clean in order to honor God and the work he was doing in our lives.  For weeks my son and I prayed that God would have favor on our situation and provide some way for our son to be able to stay at his school.  We could not afford the tuition and the only alternative would be for him so switch to the proper school system.  After many prayers, I contacted the school Superintendent and confessed my sin.  I pleaded on my son's behalf for an exception to the rule.  By God's grace, the very year that I confessed my sin, was the very year that the laws in regard to tuition had changed.  The tuition had been dramatically slashed to an amount that was now more affordable.  I contacted my son immediately with the good news.  This was the first time, my son would witness God's faithfulness in answering prayer.

Do you see the consequences and bondage we suffered from being in a territory that was not rightfully ours to be in according to the state law?  When we chose to do the right thing, in the right way, God blessed our efforts of honesty and righteousness.  This is the same blessing foreigners can experience when they come to reside in our land by choosing to abide by the right procedures.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

So What About the Truth..

In today's culture, how does one know, discern, and follow the truth?  Everyday it is becoming more and more difficult to see the truth reflected in the daily lives of those who surround us.  I have my own biased opinions and tend to place a percentage of blame on the media, but I know this reasoning isn't going to hold water since we all have the freedom to choose what he watch, listen to and read.  Sadly, our children are even more susceptible to inappropriate messages when parents begin to incorporate these messages into their own value and belief systems.  When this happens, parents typically stop censoring inappropriate material because they no longer view the content as inappropriate.  A good example of this is the many TV sitcoms that glorify sexual activity outside of marriage.  This theme has become so common, that teenage pregnancy rates and the proliferation of STD's has exploded into epidemic proportions.

So if inappropriate material wasn't available would people still seek it out.  Of course, from the beginning of time, man has been drawn to a sinful nature.  There is also something called the black  market which is an incredibly lucrative industry.  People who primarily participate in this market have something to gain solely for themselves due to the desire of financial gain, the desire to exploit others, and a focus on oneself with disregard for others. 

The word integrity just came to mind.  Plainly put, integrity is choosing to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.  What drives people to act with integrity; to do the right thing even though they may experience negative consequences?  The greatest person in history who best displayed and modeled this quality, was our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus repeatedly chose to teach us truths so that our eyes would be open to our sin. He knew that if people were open to living by his teachings they would naturally experience a transformation that would make them into a righteous people, people of integrity.  Jesus faced dire consequences for teaching the truth!  His love for his people was so great that he chose to sacrifice his own life so that we could have a chance at eternal life.  

Much of today's cultural message revolves around, "If it feels good, do it."  Where is the truth in this?  What is the younger generation learning?  How will they know the difference between the truth and a lie?  Today's culture is teaching them there is no such thing as right and wrong.  These are simply relative terms depending on whose providing the definition.  What's wrong in the eyes of one individual, can be perfectly acceptable in the eyes of another.  Rationalizing a behavior is a technique used to make it acceptable.  This way, you don't have to face consequences because you have already told yourself that you are right.  The next step is to surround yourself with others that agree with you.  Before you know it, what used to be sinful behavior is now being glorified and should be tolerated by others.  This sequence of events helps to alleviate any guilt.  Once guilt is no longer an issue, your conscious leaves you free and clear to live life as you please regardless of who else may be indirectly or directly affected by your behavior and decisions. 

I have to go back to the difference of those who hold a world view, versus those who hold a biblical view.  A world view today has a focus based around a distorted view of the American Dream.  The American Dream used to be the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.  These pursuits were originally granted by God to our forefathers.  Benjamin Franklin encouraged the writers of the constitution to look to God for direction in what would be the greatest document in our Nation's history.   With God's wisdom and truth the first words were written as an answer to prayer.  Today the American Dream has been reformed to include tolerance, suppressed religious views, and "What about my rights?"  The Constitution is slowly being torn apart to exclude the very hand that inspired it.  A biblical world view is solely based on conforming and living ones life to strongly reflect biblical truths and teachings.  My husband usually says, "Right is right and wrong is wrong and there is no confusing the two especially when Jesus spelled it out so clearly."

Jesus made life so simple for us.  He described three very clear principles.  The first, John 8:31, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."  Second, John 14:6,  "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me."  Third, John 16:37,  "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."

The first principle gives us an opportunity to live in peace.  Peace comes when the truth keeps us free from guilt and blameless in the eyes of God.  Have you ever experienced the domino effect of telling a lie.  Pretty soon you find yourself telling a lie and then having to tell another lie to cover up for the one prior.  Before you know it, you can't keep all the lies straight.  This is like being held prisoner to all your lies.  You always have to be one step ahead of yourself so that you don't say something to incriminate yourself.

The second principle tells us clearly that the only way to experience eternal life, is to be in a relationship with the very one who sacrificed his life for us, Jesus Christ.  What an easy path Jesus made for us.  He took the punishment, the blame, the scoffing, the ridicule, the pain and death on the cross and all He asked from us in return was to commune with Him.  Jesus wants to hear from us.  He wants to share in our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly.  He suffered it all and because of this Nothing surprises him.  Jesus longs to love us and forgive us through all of life.  All he wants in return is our love for Him.  This is so simple, but we have hardened our hearts to his work on the cross.  We have hardened our hearts to his teachings and decrees.  We somehow believe that our ways our better than his.  This attitude has now become an idol.  We have placed our own will above the will of God.  We have told Jesus that even though he did all the work, we still want to do things our way.  Hmmm this sounds like the retelling of the story of the Israelites.  They too wanted to do things their way, even after God proved himself faithful and performed miracle after miracle. 

The third principle explains clearly those who practice the truth will hear the voice of Jesus.  They will be blessed with answers to life's tough questions because Jesus will guide them and reveal the truth.  He will provide wisdom, understanding and knowledge that will be foreign to the rest of the world.  Jesus cannot direct the path of a person choosing to live a life of sin.  His teachings fall on deaf ears.  The hearts and minds of these individuals have been hardened to biblical truths.

My question is still the same, will you turn your back on the Messiah and choose your own path or will you accept your Savior to live a life rich in His promises?  In order for one to live by the truth, one must first know the truth.  Reach beyond the promises of this world and rely on the promises of His word.