Wednesday, December 18, 2013

God Heard, God Forgave, God Delivered

Yesterday, sharing from the book of Jonah, I talked about how our decisions and choices affect not only ourselves, but those around us as well.  Today, I want to share more of Jonah's experience. 

After rebelling against God, and openly admitting it, Jonah was thrown overboard a ship and into the tumultuous sea.  God brought forth a giant fish to swallow Jonah.  Chapter two records Jonah's thoughts, which was actually a prayer:


1From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.


There are several things that I see in this prayer that I want to share with you:

First, Jonah says his "distress" he "called to the LORD" (verse 2).  I can't think of anything more hopeless than sinking into the depths of the sea with no life vest, no air tank, no one above willing to pull me back into the boat.  Yet, Jonah still "called to the LORD".  Even though Jonah willingly rebelled against God, he still knew that if he called out to Him with a repentant heart, God would hear

Second, I want to point out that Jonah realized it was God who allowed this to happen (see verses 3-6a) .  Because God is a holy, righteous, and just God, Jonah knew that God had to bring punishment for his open rebellion.

Third, Jonah still had hope.  In verse 4 he says, "I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple." (emphasis mine)  I'm no Bible scholar, but this verse says to me that even when we sin against God, we can still look to Him and hope in Him. 

Fourth, in verse 8, Jonah claims that those who "cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them."  Hmmm. What worthless idols did Jonah have?  Was he talking about himself, or generally speaking?  I had the thought, and of course I have no way of knowing for certain, but I wonder if Jonah's idol was his work.  He was a prophet.  Prophets, for the most part, were held in high esteem.  He was in the belly of a fish because he didn't want to use his God-given office of prophet the way God wanted him to.  Just something to think about.

Fifth, back in verse 7, Jonah says, "I remembered you, LORD."  This sort of lines up with my thought on what his idol might have been.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we are doing in the name of the Lord, that we forget the Lord Himself.  It took an extremely drastic event to get Jonah to remember his Lord. 

And finally, after Jonah cried out in repentance to the LORD, we see that God "commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land." (verse 10)  God heard, God forgave, God delivered. 

Child of God, God desires for you (and me) to experience His forgiveness and to live in His deliverance!

1 John 1:8-9  

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Peaceful in Rebellion

I started reading the book of Jonah this morning.  I actually felt a bit reluctant, I guess perhaps it's because I'm familiar with Jonah and resemble him more than I'd like to admit. For those of you who are not familiar with Jonah, I encourage you to read (or listen) to the book here.

Jonah rebelled against God. Plain and simple.  God told him to do something very specific and Jonah refused.  Instead of going where God told him to go and doing what God told him to do, Jonah ran in the opposite direction.  He bought passage on a ship, and while on that ship God caused a huge storm to come upon it.  The storm was so severe that the sailors were dumping their cargo and crying out to their gods.  Finally, the captain realized that Jonah was nowhere to be found, so he went below deck to look for him.  Would you believe that Jonah was sleeping?  He was so peaceful in his rebellion that he was able to sleep through a major storm while on the sea!    WOW! Child of God, have you ever been, or ARE you, in rebellion to the point that it no longer bothers you? Do you realize that your rebellion not only puts you in the middle of a storm, but also those around you as well?  Jonah was not the only one of that ship! Other men, who were going about their daily lives, shipping cargo from one place to another, were right there in the middle of the sea being tossed and battered by the waves that were brought on because of Jonah's sin. 

Sin has consequences.  

The choices we make affect us AND those around us.  Galatians 6:7 warns us: 

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." 

 Not only will you, Child of God, reap the consequences, but those closest to you will as well, in one way or another. 

I speak from personal experience.  I admitted earlier that I was reluctant to read the book of Jonah.  It's because I once was Jonah.  I lived in out-right rebellion of God's will for me.  I lived for self, and boy, did I pay the price!  I hurt myself, I hurt my family, but worse - I hurt God.   

Sin has consequences.  There is always a ripple effect.

Child of God, if you are living in rebellion - REPENT!  Reader, if you cannot honestly say that you are a child of God - REPENT!  

If you continue reading the book of Jonah, you will see that all God wanted was for people to be restored to Him.  His greatest desire is to have fellowship with all men.  He moved heaven and earth in order to restore our relationship to Him, as we so clearly see in John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life." 

Call on the name of the LORD today.  Confess, repent and live! 

 

Friday, December 13, 2013

For those who love Him


This morning I was writing in my journal, recording something that has been bothering me. I have found that writing things out often gives me a sense of relief/release. Anyway, the last thing I wrote was a prayer to God to work things out for our good. After I wrote this, I looked at the bottom of the page where there is always a Bible verse, and what do you think was there? Romans 8:28! I just had to smile and shake my head in wonder. God continues to be ridiculously good to me! He is so faithful! Why do I, even for a moment, let things of this world discourage me?


Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Time





"Time is a teacher, so it shouldn't be despised."  This thought came to me a few minutes ago. You see,
I've been inwardly impatient concerning a project, and I think this was the Lord telling me to be patient.  In a way it is comforting because it tells me that time is not running out as quickly as it seems.  On the other hand it is frustrating, because I am by nature a very impatient person.  When I set my mind to a task I want it accomplished so that I can move on to the next one.  But the task at hand, or the "project" as I referred to it earlier, is not something that can be completed in one sitting.  The project is actually not a project at all.  It is a journey of faith. 

I love to learn.  I am constantly reading something, mostly nonfiction. Whether it is current events or something of a historical nature, you can usually find me reading about it.  But now the Lord has prompted me to do the writing.  Even as I type those words I find myself shaking my head and wondering, "How in the world am I going to write anything worth reading - especially on the subjects of prayer and faith?" That's when I have to remind myself that anything God wants me to do will be done only through His strength and ability - not mine!  So the very act of beginning to form words into sentences and storing them up to share with others in the future, is in and of itself an act of faith.  It might seem insignificant, but to me it's huge. 

This step of faith, this minute forward motion, causes me to take a deep breath, and it brings tears to my eyes.  Why is that?  Because it is an admission that God has a purpose for me that is not yet within my sight or my understanding.  It is also a commitment to continue on the same path until I reach the destination.  This is something that, for the most part, will be out of my control.  After all, if what I write IS something that God wants others to read, then He will have to be the one to get it into their hands!  I don't know the first thing about writing a book and getting it published.

Well, the first step has been taken.  Actually, I guess you could say two steps have been taken.  One - I've committed to do this, and two - I've said it out loud to others.  Time will tell whether or not I actually complete the journey.  Time - there's that word again!  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Glass Jars

God has had me on a journey for the past few years.  Technically I guess you could say He has had me on a journey all of my life, but in the past few years I have come to be more aware of it. Part of the journey has been in learning how to to hear His voice and, more importantly, to recognize His voice.  God has used various authors of books, a few of my friends, fewer pastors/teachers, and of course, the Bible, to help me on this journey.

One of the things that I have learned along the way is to practice being still.  Many of us know the verse: "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10), but how many of us know how?  One of the books that God has used in my life (and I think I have mentioned it before) is called Can You Hear Me? Tuning Into the God Who Speaks by Brad Jersak. In the book, Brad explains the art of being still by giving exercises at the end of each chapter.  Another book that has helped me is How to Hear God's Voice (recently re-titled 4 Keys to Hearing God's Voice) by Mark Virkler.  He does a great job of making things simple.

Now I want to share something intimate with you.  It's a journal entry of mine from July 19, 2012.  It was during one of my "being still" mornings. I was reading through Psalms & I had a conversation with the Lord:

ME: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures...

ME: Lord, I'm going to lie down in this green pasture I picture in my mind.  I see You sitting underneath a tree, watching me.  What do you want me to see? 
Lord, You have a smile on Your face.  I see a glass jar in my hand.  Why am I holding a glass jar? 

JESUS: I know how you like to store things in jars.  You like to see the colors.  You like to store useful things.  I am the Giver of all good things & I am going to give you surprises to store in your glass jar.  They will be things that will be useful to you.  You can take them out later when you need them.  In the meantime, you can look at the jar & see the beautiful things I've given you. 

ME: Lord, thank You for delighting in giving me such good things! I can't wait to see what You are going to put in my glass jar!  
Lord, are You ready for me to go on to the still waters, or should I lie back down here in the green pasture?  Because, if You want, I'm ready to go on, but I'll lie back down here and wait if You want. 

JESUS: Let's just kick back & wait here a while.  Let's think about the Father. 

ME: Yes, Lord. 

Now I doubt that this means anything to you, Reader, but it made my soul sing!  Since then the Lord has been faithful in putting things in my glass jar!  Things like a word of encouragement from my husband, a friend, or even a stranger.  Things like one - or both - of my kids doing something without my asking.  Things like giving me opportunities to share the love of Christ with someone.  Things like being my defender against those who opposed me.  All manner of things! 

So why am I sharing this with you?  Because I want to encourage you to start your own journey with the Lord.  He desires to have an intimate relationship with everyone who calls on Him!  If you are a follower of Christ, then be assured that you can hear His voice (John 10)!  If you are not a follower of Christ, you too can hear His voice!  He is calling you to search for Him (see Isaiah 55:6).  He promises that if we seek Him, we WILL find Him (see Deuteronomy 4:29)!  Call on the Lord, and be saved (see Acts 2:21)!  What does that mean?  It means to call out to Jesus Christ, admitting that you need Him.  I'm not going to give you what to say word-for-word, because if you genuinely want to know the Lord, you will find the words.  

I hope that in the days to come, you will start to recognize the things the Lord is giving to you to put in your own glass jar!









Saturday, October 19, 2013

Journaling My Journey






Today I looked back through several of my posts that I have shared throughout the years here on my blog.  It was good to look back and see how God has helped me to grow in my faith, as well as to remain steadfast on biblical issues which do not change.  I was grateful that I took the time to journal my journey.  I hope that one day my children will read through my thoughts and realize how much I love them, their dad, and my God.  I pray that others will come across my pages and take time to read and learn how my God is faithful.  I pray that others will find Jesus Christ because I took the time to share Him and His Word.  I also pray that believers who have strayed will be reminded of the truth of God's word and will return to Him. 



May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

He Knows My Needs

Recently something greatly discouraged me.  I felt Holy Spirit led to share an encouraging passage of Scripture with a body of believers, but for reasons out of my control, I was not able to do so.  My heart was saddened and I was physically deflated of energy. 

Instead of attending our usual evening church service, I chose to stay home. I simply needed to be alone with my thoughts and with my God.  I was looking through my twitter page when a particular tweet caught my eye.  It was an article that someone had shared concerning prophecy.  I clicked on the link, read the article and was intrigued by it's author.  I then clicked on a link that led to the author's website.  While there I came across a video series discussing the ministry of prophecy.  I watched the series, and much to my surprise by the very end of the series, the author shared a passage of Scripture to encourage those who work in the ministry of prophecy.  My surprise was not due to her using Scripture to encourage (after all, that is what a prophet does), it was the specific Scripture she referenced, which was Matthew 11:28-30, the very passage of Scripture that the Holy Spirit had led me to share to encourage others earlier that very day!  

How sweet it was for God to encourage me through the passage that He wanted me to use to encourage others!  

 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

I was reminded of how God knows my needs and how He so graciously desires to meet them!  

Matthew 6:8b "for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."



Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Messenger

Jeremiah is known as the "Weeping Prophet" because of how earnestly he proclaimed the Word of the LORD & yet he did not see the people respond in obedience. For 40 years he prophesied!  God frequently reassures Jeremiah that He is with him and that He will be his defender.  However, in chapter 15 God also reminds Jeremiah that he must also repent:

Jeremiah 15:19-20

"Therefore this is what the LORD says: 'If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve Me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be My spokesmanLet this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.  I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you', declares the LORD."

The messenger is not exempt from the message!

Everyone is held responsible for their own personal response to God and His Word.  If we respond in obedience we have God's promise of protection.  However, if we reject the Word of the LORD, He removes His protective hand and we are then subject to His rebuke.

I can't help but think of the times when my children were little and their daddy and I had to discipline them.  It truly was painful for us to lift our hands and inflict pain on them - temporary as it was.  Yet we knew that if pain was not experienced, they would not realize the severity of their actions and they would not grow in understanding.  God does not delight in punishing His children any more than my husband and I did.  But He knows how necessary it is.  The discipline of God is an act of love (Proverbs 3:11-13).  His warnings are for our benefit.  We must listen and respond to Him with trust, because He knows what is best.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

God's Message



I am becoming more and more convinced that God’s message to the Church is “Seek Me, while I may yet be found.  Turn from your wicked ways and pray!”  He has been telling me this for over three years now.  I have been diligently searching His Word for every mention of prayer.  The message is there; the message is consistent.  It is imperative that God’s people spend time in His presence.  We will never, and I mean never experience the unbridled power of God until and unless we seek Him first!  Not only have I searched His word for this truth, but I have also read books and listened to sermons on the subject of prayer.  When I searched these resources I only expected to hear their point of view on the subject, their understanding of prayer.  What I did not expect was to read and hear almost verbatim the words God has been speaking to me on this subject, but that is exactly what has and continues to happen!  

Andrew Murray says in his work The Ministry of Intercession: A Plea for More Prayer: “Let us all unite in praying God that He would visit our souls and fit us for that work of intercession, which is at this moment the great need of the Church and the world.  It is only by intercession that that power can be brought down from Heaven which will enable the Church to conquer the world.  Let us stir up the slumbering gift that is lying unused, and seek to gather and train and band together as many as we can, to be God’s remembrancers, and to give Him no rest till He makes His Church a joy in the earth.  Nothing but intense believing prayer can meet the intense spirit of worldliness, of which complaint is everywhere made.” 

He also states: “There is a question, the deepest of all, on which I have not entered in this book. I have spoken of the lack of prayer in the individual Christian as a symptom of a disease.  But what shall we say of it, that there is such a widespread prevalence of this failure to give a due proportion of time and strength to prayer? Do we not need to inquire, How comes it that the church of Christ, endued with the Holy Ghost, cannot train its ministers and workers and members to place first what is first?  How comes it that the confession of too little prayer, and the call for more prayer, is so frequently heard, and yet the evil continues?  The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Supplication and Intercession, is in the Church and in every believer.  There must surely be some other spirit of great power resisting and hindering this Spirit of God.  It is indeed so.  The spirit of the world, which under all its beautiful and even religious activities is the spirit of the god of this world, is the great hindrance.  Everything that is done on earth, whether within or without the Church, is done by either of these two spirits.  What is in the individual the flesh, is in mankind as a whole the spirit of the world; and all the power the flesh has in the individual is owing to the place given to the spirit of this world in the Church and in Christian life.  It is the spirit of the world [that] is the great hindrance of the spirit of prayer.  All our most earnest calls to men to pray more will be vain except this evil be acknowledged and combated and overcome.  The believer and the Church must be entirely freed from the spirit of the world… I have felt it so strongly that the truth need to be anew asserted…”

My friends, when I read those words my heart raced!  It was if I had penned those very words myself, yet here it was from the mouth of Andrew Murray, and man of God born in the 1800’s.   I was both encouraged and discouraged simultaneously.  Encouraged because the message was the same as the one I’ve been hearing.  Encouraged because I wasn’t alone. Discouraged because the message has not yet resounded within the Church as a whole.  Discouraged because the message still falls on deaf ears.  Yet I will continue to share this message.  I will carry this baton until the Lord instructs me to pass it on to someone else.  

During my prayer time, the Holy Spirit often leads to me pray Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  I ask God to help His Church to live by this instruction.  I ask God to help us realize that His word is not a cliché, but that it is POWER!  I say this because we often do consider His word to be cliché, do we not?  Do we truly understand what these verses are saying?  It really cannot be broken down to be any simpler than it is!  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  Reread these verses over and over, putting an emphasis on a different word each time.  Do this until it resonates within your heart and your soul!  

God brought to my remembrance several things for which we do not trust Him.  Prayer, of course, is a huge one.  We don’t truly believe that prayer is power; if we did, I would not be writing to you now.  Something else that we do not trust Him on is the acknowledging Him part of these verses.  Some translations use the word “submit”.  Either way, the Church as a whole is not doing this. 
When we pray, which is infrequent at best, we most often are making a petition for God’s blessing upon our ideas, our plans, and our traditions.  We are not seeking His face and asking Him what He wants us to do.  We assume that because something is a “good” idea, that it must be acceptable to God.  If it has worked for someone else, then it will work for us, too.  Right?  Well, my friend, that is how we are leaning on our own understanding.  We limit God by putting Him in a box.  This box often comes in the shape of literal boxed curriculum.  Instead of seeking God ourselves and rightly dividing the Word of truth, we let others do that for us and use prepackaged materials to teach our Sunday Schools, small groups and congregations.  I am not calling these materials evil.  In fact, there are many inspired studies from which I have personally benefited; however, the issue is that these are the things that we go to first.  We do not trust the Holy Spirit to guide us in our studies and in our teaching.  We are taking the easy way.  

The box has another appearance.   It is a more traditional package, which has been handed down throughout many generations.  This box, of course, is Tradition itself.  Much like the fruitcake, church tradition has passed through so many hands that it is now stale and undesirable.  No one really wants a piece.  Our church services have become so predictable, and so bland.  Many who attend these services come only out of a sense of duty, not out of a desire to meet with God face-to-face.  Many go exactly because they know what to expect.  The format never changes.  Again, are these practices evil? Not necessarily.  But are they inspired by God?  In most cases – no, they are not.  How can I say this so confidently?  Because of the evidence - which is the lack of good fruit.  If our services were led by the Holy Spirit, we would see hearts changed; the lost coming to salvation in Jesus, and the Church would be fully submitted to His perfect will.  This is not, by and large, happening in the Church today. We are leaning on our own understanding. 

God warns us of this mindset in Isaiah 50:10-11

“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of His servant?  Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.  But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.  This is what you shall receive from My hand: You will lie down in torment.”
Isaiah 29:13 “The LORD says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by man.”

I do not wish to criticize or condemn my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is not my desire to insult the Bride of Christ.  No!  My heart is full of love for the Body of Christ!  My heart longs for the Church to live in the fullness and the power of God on a daily basis!  My heart’s desire is for every believer to have that child-like faith in Almighty God so that His power can be displayed for the entire world to see!  My heart’s cry is for us to return to our FIRST LOVE! 
Many of you are aware that Jesus Christ Himself pointed out to the seven churches in Revelation that there were things He was not pleased with.  Just as a parent corrects a child, so God corrects His children so that they can become better.  Only in the case of God’s children, we are not only to be better -  we are to be holy, for He is holy! 
Which brings me to another part of this message.  Church, we have got to stop looking like and living like the world!  We must stop rationalizing our participation in things that are not of God!  I am specifically referring to personal sins and worldly holidays. 
In the Church today there is adultery, fornication, gossip, lying, deceit, bitterness and overall selfishness.  Divorce is rampant among believers.  This should not be!  

God says in Ecclesiastes 5:4-7: 

When you make a vow to God, do no delay in fulfilling it.  He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.  Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.  And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.”

Other areas in which we are rationalizing and justifying our behavior is in the participation of worldly holidays, the vilest of which is Halloween.  In the past my family and I rationalized this away ourselves.  We told ourselves that if we participated in a church parking lot, it would be OK.  It is a “community outreach”.  But many Christians even participate in the darker things.  What is going on here?  The celebration of fear and death!  What does God have to say about fear?  Is it from God?  Not the kind of fear that is embraced and spread forth during Halloween!  I don’t see how this glorifies Christ. The world sees our behavior in these things and thinks that we are no different – and rightly so! 

I will close with words from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, 18-22

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.  The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit.”
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.  Test everything.  Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Puzzling Lessons

I Kings 13

Jeroboam has sinned against God by building altars for idols and leading Israel in worshiping these false gods. So God sends a "man of God" to prophesy against him.  There is no name associated with this "man of God".  Perhaps it is the prophet Shemaiah, who was mentioned in chapter 12; he was called "the man of God".  However, I don't know.

This whole account in chapter 13 puzzles me.  This unnamed prophet obeyed God by warning Jeroboam.  However, on his way home he is approached by an "old prophet" who invites him to come eat with him.  The "man of God" had been told by God not to eat or drink anything, but the "old prophet" said that God (or rather an angel) had told him to invite the man of God to eat.  So the man of God believed the lie and went to eat with the old prophet.  While he was eating, the word of the LORD came to him and said that because he had disobeyed, he would not be buried in the tomb of his fathers.  In other words, "You're gonna die here!"

The puzzle:

Why did the "old prophet" lie to this man?
Why did the "man of God" so readily believe the old prophet?
Were both of these men unnamed because they had disobeyed God?  The old prophet by deceiving the man of God, and the man of God by trusting the old prophet?

I can sort of see how the man of God trusted the old prophet, because God sometimes does talk to us through other people.  After all, that is what a prophet did - talk on God's behalf.  But I don't understand why the old prophet wanted to deceive this man of God.  Was he referred to as an "old prophet" because he was an old false prophet?

Talking things through:

I'm the man of God walking home a different way - walking a path of obedience - when I'm approached by an old prophet.  This prophet invites me to dinner, but I tell him no because the word of the LORD had told me not to eat or drink.  This old prophet tells me that he, too, is a prophet.  He relates to me.  He says that an angel had told him that it was OK for me to eat. So, being tired and weak (vulnerable) I choose to believe the prophet over what God had told me personally.  God uses the old prophet to tell me that because I disobeyed, I'm going to die.

Well, I'm still puzzled.  I don't understand fully why this happened to the man of God except that it is simply what happens.  We are and will be tempted to believe other voices over the voice of God.  Compromising is so easy to do when it caters to our flesh.  We (I) rationalize so many things because it is easier.  Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." 

There was no mention of this man of God inquiring of God before going with the old prophet.  Perhaps if he had the word of the LORD would have come to him sooner with a word of instruction not to go, instead of later with the word of rebuke.  I suppose this happened and was recorded as a lesson to us (me) on trust.  Just because I may presently be walking a path of obedience, it doesn't mean that I am immune to temptation.  The enemy is going to keep trying to trap me.  He will use people with whom I can relate and he will hit me when I am weak and vulnerable.  Giving in is not what I want to do.  I want to obey God's voice no matter what! When I am weak, He is strong!  When I am tempted, He is faithful and gives me a way out!  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

When I am hearing a message that contradicts what I KNOW God has told me personally, I need to trust God's voice.  Even though he does speak in different ways and at different times, I need to trust the word I received from Him myself. 

Father, please fill me with Your wisdom and discernment.  Enable me to know and trust You above all others.  Help me not to doubt You.  Help me to not be swayed by others who would knowingly or even unknowingly tempt me to disobey You. 
In Jesus' Name, amen.



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

a mental picture


While talking to God yesterday about the church, a mental picture crossed my mind. I thought of children and how they tend to color all over the page making random scrawls with all sorts of colors. When they are done they proudly display their "pictures" to Mom and Dad, eagerly awaiting words of praise and adoration for a job well done. That is how it should be, with children. However, as our children grow and mature, we don't assume or expect that their works of art will remain colorful scribbles, but hopefully they will develop into more distinct works of art. Works that we will at a glance be able to recognize specific shapes, sizes, and perhaps even themes.

Lately I have been praying over my church family more fervently. For quite some time our growth has been stunted numerically, but even more importantly, spiritually. I believe it is because we are still behaving like little children. We are consistently and even excitedly coloring page after page after page to give to Him. We should be well passed this stage. Not only should we be more skilled with our strokes, we should be asking the Master what it is HE wants us to paint and how HE wants us to paint it. What are HIS favorite colors? What is HIS favorite theme? But we aren't doing that. Even though our color pages in and of themselves are not evil, they simply are, well... simple. They do not produce a perfect picture of Christ that can be seen by the world and thus drawing them in to Him. Our pictures are merely ones that only we can recognize. You know how a child will say, "This is you, Mommy. This is Fido and this is me", only to the parents' eyes it all looks like a jumbled up mess.

There comes a point in time when we need to stop being childish. We need to cease doing things our way and finally surrender to God's way. Only then will we be able to make perfect strokes that result in complete works of art. Only then we will produce pages that our Heavenly Father will eagerly accept and proudly display for all to see because the final piece reveals the Master of our masterpiece.

(This was originally written in 2010.  Since that time I have seen some growth in my particular church body. However, there is still room for much more.  Of course I personalize that first and foremost.) 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Look Again

Picking green beans in the garden is enjoyable to me.  I am always slightly amused at how I will set about harvesting all of the beans and just when I think I'm done, I'll glance in a spot I already checked and there - hanging directly in front of me - will be another strand of beans.  "Now I know that I already looked there", I say to myself, but these little guys blend in so perfectly with their live-giving vines that playing hide-and-seek in plain sight just comes naturally.  If beans could laugh, I imagine they would be stifling giggles as they watch me and the expression on my face when I focus in on the ones literally dangling in front of my face! 

If you have been reading my posts for any length of time, you know by now that I saw a spiritual parallel in this green bean scenario.  It made me think of God's Word.  Day after day I read Scripture in order to grow in my relationship with my Lord.  Yet I have lost count of the times God has revealed something new to me within the exact same verse (or verses) that I have read so many times before!  It is much like picking green beans.  I start out looking at what is on the surface, or the outside, and begin by picking and placing those beans in my bowl.  Then I go in deeper, lifting up the leaves and the long, twisting vines that sometimes will conceal the beans until I look harder.  There are times when I have to look up and there are times when I have to literally bend down.  It takes action. It takes effort.  If I want to get the most out of my beans, I have to look and look again. God's Word is alive!  It never gets old.  It never becomes irrelevant.  There is always something there for me to find that I can then pick, hold on to, receive nourishment from and hopefully at times pass on to someone else who can then benefit from the harvest.  And, just like the imagined giggling green beans, I can imagine my God taking delight and joy in the expression on my face after I realize what was always before me, but I just discovered for myself!  


(These are not from my garden.)


Psalm 119:10-16 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

God Astounds Me

Psalm 51 is a beautiful picture of God's mercy, love and grace.  The entire chapter is a prayer of confession and repentance.  It is a reminder that even the mightiest of us can fall into sin.  However, when we humble ourselves, confess our sins and repent, we find compassion, forgiveness... mercy. 

David was confronted by Nathan, a prophet of God, about the adultery he had committed with Bathsheba.  If you are familiar with the biblical account, then you know David was also guilty of murder, for he had Bathsheba's husband killed to cover up the adultery.  David was God's chosen, God's anointed.  At some point in his relationship with God, God called David a "man after My heart", and yet we read in Psalm 51 the way David had grieved his God through sinful acts.

Each time I read this psalm, I am moved by the brokenness, the sincerity and even the confidence with which David approaches God.  How could he go before a holy God with such confidence after sinning?  It's because he knew his God.  He knew that God is a loving God, slow to anger and not willing that any should perish.  He knew that God desired their relationship to be restored.  David had seen God's faithfulness time and time again throughout his life.  He knew that this breach in his relationship with God was because of his own actions, not because of any unfaithfulness on God's part.  He knew that if he was willing to humble himself and pray, and seek God's face that God would be faithful yet again and forgive him!  Does this not cause you to be in awe of God?  Just think - a holy, righteous God willing to forgive our sins each and every time we are willing to submit to Him!  God astounds me!

There are many people who consider God to be a bully.  They think that He is an arrogant tyrant who smugly demands dominance over us.  This mindset stems from a rebellious spirit and a prideful mind!  God IS God.  He IS holy.  He IS the ruler of the heaven and earth.  And yes, every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that He IS LORD (Romans 14:11).  BUT - as I stated above, He is a compassionate God, slow to anger and not willing that anyone should perish.  He has gone above and beyond to prove His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  I know I frequently site that verse, but it is because it is the clearest, simplest way to share the gospel.

My prayer is for those who are lost - meaning those who have not called on the name of the Lord Jesus (Romans 10:13) - to realize that the love of God is extended to them, and for them to humbly accept it.  My prayer is also for followers of Christ to remember that when we fall back into sin, God is still faithful to forgive us if we confess and repent (1 John 1:9).  A relationship with God is a daily, deliberate choice.  It's not a one-time decision.  It is something that we must continually choose (I'm talking about the relationship, NOT salvation. I don't believe we can lose our salvation, but that's for another post).   "Submit yourselves, then, to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you." James 4:7




Below is a beautiful musical rendition of Psalm 51 by one of my favorite groups, Sons of Korah. I pray that today Psalm 51 will be your prayer, as it is mine.




Saturday, July 13, 2013

Anchor for my Soul




YEARS ago I wrote a song I titled "Anchor for the Soul", which was inspired by Hebrews chapter six.  After mom died, for some strange reason, I threw away all the songs and poetry that I had written over the years.  I don't know why I did that & I don't know why I'm sharing that story. This morning I read part of Hebrews six and that phrase once again stood out to me.   

What does an anchor do?  It stabilizes.  It secures.  It holds fast.  Even when storms rage about, an anchor will keep a boat from drifting away.  Jesus is the Anchor for my soul!  My soul is stabilized in Him.  My soul is secure in Him.  He will hold me fast! What a comfort!  What a Savior! 

Hebrews 6:16-20 "People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

Dear Lord, thank You for being an anchor for my soul.  Thank you that when the storms come in my life, I can trust that You will hold me secure in Your hand.  


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Garden Lessons, God Lessons


While working in my garden yesterday morning, God was teaching me spiritual lessons.  I garden organically, which means I do not use chemical pesticides.  Instead, I go through plant by plant and hand-pick any pests that I see.  One of the main pests that I contend with are squash bugs.  They lay their eggs on the leaves of squash plants.  I use soapy water to remove the eggs before they have a chance to hatch.  Sometimes I find eggs on the top of the leaves, which makes it easier to find and remove them

However, sometimes the eggs are underneath the leaves, meaning that I have to search harder and longer before I find them.  They are also usually very near the veins of the leaves, making it much more challenging to remove them, and sometimes I end up tearing the leaf slightly, leaving a mark on the plant

I had been away from home for several days, which unfortunately means that there were many pests to deal with since I wasn't here to search the garden daily.

So while I was going through searching for these pests, God showed me an analogy:

I am a gardener searching the plants for pests.  
God is the Gardener searching my heart for sin. 

The eggs represent sin, the leaves represent my heart.  The eggs planted on the leaves will eventually develop into pests that will destroy.  

Eggs that are on the top of the leaves are easily spotted and removed.
Some sin in my heart is easily and quickly spotted, thus more easily removed. 
Other sin lies deeper, or underneath the leaves of my heart, making it harder to be seen and thus more challenging to be removed. There are even times where sin is so deep that even after God removes it, there is a mark or scar left behind. 

The soapy water represents the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  If I apply them to my life, They will remove the sin from within me.  

To be an effective gardener, I need to search on a daily basis.  To be holy and righteous in God's eyes, He needs to search my heart on a daily basis.  If I don't allow Him to do so, sin will accumulate, making it even more difficult later on to deal with.  

When I was finally finished removing all of the eggs that I had found, I held the cup in my hand and saw the great number of potential pests that were now no longer a threat to my plants (I meant to take a picture, but forgot).  I always flush the pests so that there is no possibility for any of them to resurrect.  God reminded me that once I confess my sins, He is faithful and just to forgive me of my sins and to cleanse from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)!  He then tosses my sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) - out of sight, out of mind - just like when I flush the pests!  

I was very grateful for God giving me this visual and I wanted to share it with someone right away.  I called my kids (and our cousin who was visiting) to the garden.  I had them search some of the plants that I had intentionally left undone.  While they were searching I shared the above analogy with them.  I knew that if I had only told them about it that they likely would not have listened well, but if they did their own search it would most likely stick with them.  

There were a couple other things that God showed me.  For one thing, there were several bees buzzing around while I was searching.  I asked God if they represented the devil, since they were so annoying!  However, He said that no, they are His workers and therefore represent other believers.  Sometimes when we believers have unconfessed sin in our lives, other believers come across as annoying to us - especially if they are speaking truth to us and we don't want to hear it.  They are, however, necessary in order to spread the truth and therefore produce more fruit. Just like the bees spread the pollen and help produce more plants. 

Water is vital to the garden. However, if I water the garden at the wrong time of the day, it can actually do more harm than good. If I water during the heat of the day, it could possibly burn the plants, and of course most of the water would just dissipate before it had a chance to nourish. The Word of God is vital to the believer. However, if we use the Word of God at the wrong time or in the wrong way, it can do more harm than good.  Yes the Word of God is a weapon, the Bible calls it a "sword", but we are never to use this is a weapon to harm others.  2 Timothy 2:15 says

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

There was even more that God showed me, but I think I will save it for another post!  I have been gardening for about four years now, and God continues to use this experience to teach me more about myself and about Him. I can't thank God enough for telling me to start this gardening endeavor; because of it I have grown in my faith and closer to my God!  

 





Monday, June 10, 2013

Choices

In the grand scheme of things, how you choose to look in God's eyes is all that matters. Will you choose to stand before Him clothed in your own flesh, or will you choose to stand before Him clothed in the righteousness of Christ?  Your choice determines your destination

In other words (and I'm going to use my mom since I only had her most of my childhood and not my father) if I was standing in front of my mom and she was holding up a beautiful new dress for me and I knew that if I chose to put on that dress I could go to the most wonderful place in the world & be with her forever, but I also had the choice of keeping my own dirty, ragged dress on and ultimately go to a dark, lonely, isolated cave where I would never see or be with my mom again, which would I choose?  Either way, it is my choice

I know my analogy probably isn't the best, but it is a picture that came to my mind just now and I wanted to share it. 

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)





MY TESTIMONY 


I've already made my choice.  When was I was about ten years old I remember hearing for the first time that I was a sinner and that Christ died for me.  At first I wasn't sure that I was a sinner; I thought I was a pretty good girl!  My mom and grandparents (almost) always made me feel like I was! So I went to a trusted adult (I was at a church camp at this time), a lady who was my cabin counselor, and I asked her how I would know if I had sinned.  She shared with me a passage out of 1 John 1:8-10 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us."  She then asked me if I knew what a liar was and if I had ever lied.  Boy, did she pick the right question!  Lying was something that I frequently did! I would look my mom right in the eye and lie like nobody's business, knowing the whole time that she knew I was lying!  Well, the Holy Spirit poured out conviction upon me at that moment and I knew that I needed to ask Jesus to forgive me and become my Lord and Savior.  So that's what I did!  I have never once regretted that choice! 

Unfortunately off and on throughout the years following I would make choices that went against my Savior, but He never left me (which is a promise He makes to everyone who trusts in Him - see Hebrews 13:5b)!  Never once have I ever doubted that I am His and He is mine (Song of Solomon 2:16), even during those rebellious years.

So, back to you and your choice.  Picture yourself standing before your heavenly Father.  You are wearing your own filthy rags.  He has a beautiful new garment for you - all you have to do is choose to take it and put it on and you will be made new & clean - fit for the King

What will you choose today?