Water in Me

Today I heard a message by Pastor Tony Evans titled “Water in God’s House,” referencing the first twelve verses of Ezekiel 47. Ezekiel was a priest and prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah while they were living in captivity in Babylon. The main idea of Evans’ message was that the living water which is tied to life and the work of the Holy Spirit is in the Church (believers of the Lord, Jesus Christ), and if we want to see our culture change, the water has to flow out from the Church and into the community. 

I’ll admit that Ezekiel is one of those books of the Bible that many times has left me dumbfounded. There are all sorts of visions and prophecies that can confuse a simple lay person like myself. That is why we should listen to trusted Bible teachers and then read it, meditate on it and study it for ourselves. So that’s what I did.

The reason this story struck a chord with me is because I absolutely love being in the water! As a young girl growing up in the south, our above ground swimming pool was my go-to spot to beat the oppressive heat of most summer days. As I got old enough to drive, the coastal waters became my source of refreshing. Living over 200 miles from the coast for the past 28 years, I have adapted to another invigorating water source, the indoor pool. After my son began swimming on a neighborhood swim team, the familiar lure to immerse in the water again was stronger than ever. I joined the local YMCA and began swimming laps. That was almost twenty years ago and I still enjoy that time in the water. 

Ezekiel was privileged to see visions of the future where the temple was restored along with Israel and the priesthood. But the returning of the Lord’s glory to the temple had to have been the most magnificent of all the visions! After this in Chapter 47, he is shown the water that comes out from under the threshold of the temple which starts out as a trickle. As they move about 1700 feet from the temple, the depth of the water increases to ankle-deep water, then moving another 1700 feet it increases to knee-deep water. Once they move out another 1700 feet it becomes waist deep. But after the next 1700 feet, the water was too deep to walk through, one would have to swim. This water represented the work and life of the Holy Spirit.

As I listened to Tony Evans, I realized on a personal level I could chart the waters of the the Holy Spirit in my own spiritual walk. In my early childhood days of hearing the Bible stories in Sunday School, a trickle is all I received. Granted, as very young girl, I would not have been able to swim in the deep spiritual waters. As I grew and I learned more about Jesus, I accepted him as my Savior and the water rose a little more (ankle-deep). For several years I splashed around in his knee-deep waters at church and youth group, even venturing a little into the waist deep waters of God’s word. But then in my late teen years I refused to go near the water. I believed the lies of Satan that I didn’t need that water anymore. For over fifteen years my soul was as dry as the acreage in the California wildfires.               

Then one day my younger sister who lived in another city told me about a Bible study she was participating in that had groups meeting all around the world. She encouraged me to find out if there was a group in my area and I did. The first day I attended is when I put my toes back in the water!

This particular Bible study was not for those who needed floaties to get in the water! It was for the serious swimmer. We had daily homework in which we not only delved into God’s word, but learned how to apply it. My enthusiasm led me from ankle-deep water to water over my head in a matter of months, and I have been lap swimming in God’s word for over twenty years now. 

But there is more to Tony Evans’ message than just the developing of a personal relationship with the Lord. God wants more from us than just swimming in the word for our own spiritual revitalization. In Ezekiel’s vision, he was asked by his guide, “Son of man, do you see this?” It’s like God was saying, “Don’t you get it? I’m so glad you are enjoying my word, but it’s there for others, too. I want you to send it out to those who are the living dead.” God wants us to take his living waters, his Holy Spirit and the truth of His word to all those who are dead in their sins, lost. When we do this the those who were once spiritually dead will come alive!

This gradual flow of the living water in Ezekiel reminds me that God works in all of our lives in different ways and in different timing. I must be patient and let him do the work as others start their own spiritual water therapy. Some may take longer to move from ankle deep to knee-deep water than others. Some may get stuck in waist deep for awhile. That’s ok as long as there is forward progress. My job is to encourage them to stay afloat by trusting in God and his word. 

I may not know everything about God’s word or understand all the ways the Holy Spirit works, but I do know this. Jesus died for my sins and sent His Holy Spirit to keep me from drifting away from all that God has in store for me in this life and in the life to come with Him in heaven.

He will do the same for you.

All you have to do is get your toes wet!

Strip and Run (Part 2)

In the part 1 of this post we discovered there is a solution to the problem of stripping off the burdensome weights of life and the sin that easily trips us up. Hebrews 12:2 tells us the answer is staying focused on Jesus. This is not easy in a fast paced world of distractions that avert our attention away from the only one who is the author and perfecter of faith. We have to be intentional in every area of life. From the time we wake up, until we fall asleep, we need to ask Jesus for his wisdom in every situation we face. If we want to know what he would do, we have to know him completely and the only way to do this is to study his life through his Word. Then listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice to speak his truth at just the right time. 

So how do we practically strip off the things that slow us down and the sins that trip us up and how do we keep running the race with endurance? As far as sins that trip us up, if we have God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us, He will convict us of our sins and we can confess and ask for his forgiveness, which he freely gives. But if we ignore him and don’t change, then He will discipline us because he loves us (Hebrews 12:6). So, he has given us the gift of choice. Keep on sinning and get tripped up (which usually means fall flat on your face and experience the humiliation and bruises) or listen to the voice of the Spirit and enjoy peace and right living God’s way (Hebrews 12:11). 

So, now let’s head over to the starting line and focus on how to run this race set before us with endurance. Remember we all are participants in the race of life, but each of us has a specific race set before us, whether it be a sprint, 5k or marathon.  If we are fortunate, we are running in a race we enjoy. But all too often, many of us are struggling in a race we wish we could cross the finish line yesterday or participate in a different race all together. 

The apostle Paul was a man who knew about different races in life, going from the race to destroying those who followed Jesus to actually joining and leading those in that exact race. He wrote a letter to the Philippian believers while sitting in a jail cell bound by chains, not the kind of race any of us would gladly choose. You would think that Paul would certainly have difficulty “running” the race set before him, but his temporary off course trek in prison did not stop him. He wrote to these saints (holy ones) in Christ Jesus to encourage them in their own race. He tells them how to have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had when he walked on this earth (Philippians 2:1-18). He wrote that they should be like-minded, having the same love (like that of Jesus), being one in spirit and of one mind. Then he gave practical ways to do this which includes the following:

1) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. (Notice it says nothing.) Be the “runner” who is not out to  prove he or she is the fastest or best, looking for fame and glory. All glory is for God alone.

2) In humility, value others above yourselves. (Yes, even the people you don’t like!) Be the ‘runner” who let’s a slower, less experienced “runner” or even the arrogant, prideful “runner” pass ahead of you.

3) Look to the interests of the others, not your own. (Again, even those you don’t really like!) Be the “runner” who takes time to help the slower, less experienced “runner.”

4) Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (This does not say work for salvation!) This means agree with God who is working in you to give you the desire and the power to do what pleases him and to fulfill his good purpose. Be the “runner” who asks God for his will in the race, no matter if it means not winning.

5) Do everything without grumbling or arguing. (Everything!) Be the “runner” who accepts whatever happens in the race, knowing God is in control.

Did Paul’s word step on any of your toes? If so, that means the Spirit is nudging you of thoughts, words or actions that you may need to get rid of. But we don’t have to do these on our own. Jesus gives us the strength and the power to eliminate ungodly things from our lives. He’s the carb diet you need for energy. Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT). With Jesus you will never hit the wall. We may not be able to just quit our race (ex. walk out of our job at the present time) or know the outcome of our race (ex. know what God has planned for our future), but we can exchange our heavy burden for his rest by changing our attitude to be more like Christ’s. A rest that fills our hearts with peace and makes the race more enjoyable. 

All of these runner’s tips won’t work if you are not a believer in Christ. You’re on your own in the race, but you don’t have to be. Jesus is ready and waiting for you to get in the starter’s block with him. He loves you and came to earth for the purpose of taking on all of the sin of mankind so that we wouldn’t have to receive the punishment we all deserve, which is eternal life in a tormenting hell without God. He did this by giving up his life for us on a cross so that we could have eternal life in heaven with him. Yes, he did die, but he didn’t stay dead! He rose from the dead and went back to heaven to prepare a place for his children. He then sent his Spirit to live in his followers to help them run the race here on earth until they cross the finish line into heaven.

So, lace up your running shoes and follow Coach Jesus!

Build the Wall!

The torrential summer rain finally subsided while the water slowly receded into our backyard drainpipe. The red mud left on the front sidewalk was an added bonus that I wasn’t worried about. After all, it just needed to dry and then be swept away.  In just one hour, over three inches of rain had watered our patch of earth as well as the neighbor’s yard perched slightly uphill. The key word here is “uphill.” 

Before the raindrops tapered off, my son went out to rescue some of his drenched lacrosse equipment left in the back of his truck. Because the truck bed had quickly transformed into a kiddie pool, he decided to move his truck to a more level place on the street where the water could drain out. That’s when he noticed that just inches from his truck lay the rubble of our yard’s brick retaining wall. We’ve experienced downpours like this before, but never have we experienced the destruction of rushing water on our own property. Never underestimate the force of moving water! 

I’m not sure who constructed the three-foot high retaining wall that extended over eighty feet, but it was on the property twenty-eight years ago when we purchased our home. It has served its purpose well. After the shock and amazement of what rapid running water can do wore off, I called the insurance company. No coverage! We don’t live in a flood zone, therefore, we don’t have flood insurance, and besides, this was caused by soil erosion. According to the insurance policy, rainwater, the root cause of the erosion, is not a consideration.  

Once I learned we were on our own with this mess, anger and despair set in. Satan began filling my mind with lies such as “You will never get ahead financially.” Thankfully, my sister set me straight on that line of thinking, reminding me that I know better. Yes, I do know better. God has blessed us with so much more than most people, especially during this time of the COVID19 pandemic. So, when my husband saw the damage and reacted the same way, I too reminded him that this was not the way God wants us to respond. When unexpected expenses arise, it’s an opportunity to let God amaze us rather than a reason to complain. After all, we have a roof over our heads, food in the pantry and clothes in the closet. And furthermore, God has seen to it that my husband has kept his job while so many are being added to the unemployed list daily.

The pile of bricks in our yard reminded me of the story of Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem rebuilding the wall around their city. Although our wall was only for prevention of soil erosion and not for protection from enemies, Nehemiah’s responses and actions leading this project give me hope and encouragement for our small repair job. 

Nehemiah, a Jew who was the cupbearer to the King of Persia, found out about the condition of the walls and city of Jerusalem, and although he didn’t live in Jerusalem, it grieved him to the point of weeping. He fasted and prayed to the Lord about taking on the task of rebuilding this city. With the King’s favor and more importantly the Lord’s, he set out to do just that.

With all this favor, it would seem that Nehemiah would get right to work with no problems thwarting this project. But, not so fast! There were three men who originated from foreign nations who ridiculed and mocked him, trying to start a political battle. Nehemiah did not let them get to him and responded with “The God of Heaven will give us success.” This only made the three men angry and they began to insult the workers. But their criticism wasn’t enough, so they plotted together with others to fight against the Jews and eventually kill them. Their enemies were relentless, yet the workers kept on working and Nehemiah kept on encouraging them. He told them, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your families.” After this the builders themselves began carrying weapons as they worked along side those who were guarding them. Nehemiah reminded the people that God would fight for them and He did. The wall was completely repaired in only fifty-two days.

Just as Nehemiah had visible enemies trying to stop him from accomplishing God’s plans, we have an unseen enemy, Satan, who wants to stop us from living out God’s purposes for our lives. You may think repairing a suburban retaining wall is not a big deal compared to a city wall, but God is interested in every area of our lives, no matter how insignificant they may seem. I have to remind myself daily that God is on His throne and in control and when I take my problems to him, he will make a way just as he did for Nehemiah.  When we are in what seems like impossible situations, we must call on God to do the supernatural. Satan is relentless, but remember what John wrote, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Build that Wall!

Strip and Run!

No, this is not about streaking in which a person strips down to their birthday suit and runs out in public. Nor is it about the tv show “Naked and Afraid,” but I got your attention! This is a little bit of encouragement from God’s word for all of those struggling with work issues and/or questioning your place in life.

The author of the book of Hebrews tells us to “Strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up and to run with endurance the race that God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1-NLT).

You may ask, how exactly am I supposed to “strip off” every weight that slows me down when the very burden is a something or someone I can’t escape (Ex. A job that I have to keep to provide for my family or pay my bills or a person in my family)? How do I know exactly what the sins are that easily trip me up? And, how exactly do I run a race with endurance when I hate the race I’m in or don’t even know which race I’m in?

The next verse tells us how.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

It doesn’t say, “Keep your eyes on the clock for the minute you can clock out and have a drink, play a video game or other form of relaxation waiting at the end of the day.”

It also doesn’t say, “Keep you eyes on the calendar counting the days til the weekend or next vacation or even the day of retirement.”

What is does say is, “keep your eyes on Jesus.” That means staying super focused on the only one who showed us how to live the life God created us to live.

To be Continued….

Encouragement for Empty-nesters Whose Adult Children Return to the Nest

Jesus told a paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven, before he told him to take up his mat and walk (Matthew 9:1-8). If your adult children appear to be paralyzed in various ways, (keeping bedroom and bathroom tidy and putting your things in their proper place, ie dirty dishes in the dishwasher), remember that your forgiveness goes a long way towards keeping the relationship steady. One day, hopefully soon, you can say “take up your mat and walk right back to your own place.” But until that day, enjoy them and realize that at least they wanted to come back home. And by the way, this old adage is not in the Bible- “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

 

Subtle Enemy

It started out like any other Spring morning, me on the sofa with my coffee, iPad and prayer journal, and Josie my loyal Boykin Spaniel curled up on the floor next to me. Just as I was asking the Lord to help me be a servant for him and seek his kingdom first, an intruder buzzed in. Yes, I said “buzzed.” Josie noticed the nuisance first and sprang up towards the sound at the fireplace.  Seeing nothing but hearing something, I just assumed that a bee had made its way down the chimney and now was frantically trying to enter the house through the shut glass doors on the fireplace. I was not worried, but Josie wouldn’t relax.

Within seconds the sound appeared louder and we both saw the huge hornet swoop down into our space.  How dare it interrupt our quiet time! This was no trapped bee! Jumping into action with unusually quick speed for that time of day, I ran to open the kitchen back door and grabbed the broom out of the pantry. I wasn’t going to kill it, just guide it to the open air so that it could escape. But it didn’t want my help. I gently swatted at it with the hopes of it sensing that fresh air was just around the corner. Just when I thought I had it moving in the right direction, it changed course and made a beeline (yes, I used that word!) towards me. It all happened so fast and this intruder was determined to hit my face! As it reached its target, I screamed and collided with the loveseat, crashing onto the bare hardwood floor. I was bruised, but not knocked out! Sometimes I surprise myself with how quick I can move!  My fear had quickly morphed into anger!  This winged trespasser had interrupted my quiet time with Jesus! As it buzzed around the room, I dashed to the garage for my new, deadly weapon-a full can of wasp spray.

It. Was. Going. Down!

The den was eerily silent when I returned.  But I was no fool. I checked behind the window blinds, not there.  I looked out on the screened porch to see if it finally got wise and left the house, not there. Walking back into the den, I spotted it settled on the back of the sofa right behind the cushion where I had been sitting. Its bulging eyes were staring right at me! My immediate thought was “it’s Satan incarnate!” I did not hesitate to start spraying the poison, but it had one last bit of strength and flew towards the windows. It landed on the wooden floor flailing about as it tried to muster enough strength for one more flight.  Just for good measure, I unleashed my foaming firearm again until it was completely still.

To protect my dog from the poison and to make sure the enemy would not somehow resurrect, I covered it with a two-gallon bucket and a footstool.  I left it there as proof for my husband to see that I had had an eventful morning!

As I returned to the sofa, I could not get those huge, beady eyes out of my mind. I knew at that moment that Satan or one of his many demons had entered my space to distract me from spending time with Jesus. Satan will use anything to keep that from happening, and yet he can’t even come up with his own tools. Did you know that God used hornets as terror to destroy some of the nations living in the Promised Land so that his people, the Israelites, could move in? He even told the Israelites he would send the hornets (Exodus 23:28, Deut. 7:20, Joshua 24:12). Satan is such a copy cat!

Satan would do whatever it took to distract me from this vital part of my day. Satan wants us so busy (fighting flying insects) that we won’t have time to get alone with God. If we are God’s child through faith in Jesus Christ, Satan cannot change that relationship, but he will certainly do all that he can to make us ineffective for God’s kingdom. How do I know this?  Jesus promised that no one is able to snatch his sheep out of the Father’s hand and that he and the Father are one. His sheep are his followers; those that God the Father has given to Jesus his son. Jesus also reminded us that the Father is greater than all and that most certainly includes Satan (John 10:29-30)! Although Satan cannot take believers out of God’s hands, he is scheming to distract us because he does not want any of Jesus’ followers to be productive for God’s kingdom. This is one of Satan’s most successful MO’s. Even now as I write this, I am distracted by the dinging notifications on my laptop, the slamming of the neighbors’ car doors and the chiming of my phone timer reminding me to shut off the yard sprinkler. My husband lovingly reminded me this morning that ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) doesn’t come from just his side of the family. In my opinion, Satan is the author of ADD. Lord, help us all!

Distractions are just part of Satan’s plan to keep God’s children off the right path. He has other ungodly tactics such as bringing trouble and persecution, filling our minds with worries of the world, pushing us to seek pleasure through the world’s ways, and deceiving us with dreams of wealth. He even uses good things like family and friends. We must stay in communion with God’s Spirit and meditate on His word to know the difference between God’s plans and Satan’s schemes.

Looking back now I notice how the hornet didn’t just attack me as soon as it entered the room. Its approach was very subtle, with just a low hum at first, then a buzz with whirring activity and eventually moving in for the kill. Satan’s approach can be a lot like this flying insect. His ways are subtle, hoping we will question and doubt God. He did this with Eve in the garden when he slithered up and said, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1b). His goal was to make Eve doubt that God was truthful and wanted the best for her. Satan has not changed! He wants us to doubt God’s love for us and question what He said.

In my battle with the hornet, my first offensive weapon was a broom! I thought if I gently led it in the right direction, it would leave the house. Satan will not leave us alone if we just nicely ask him to leave.  First, we must wield the best offensive weapon we have, God’s word, at our enemy. Jesus did this when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).  He knew that Satan could not handle the truth of God’s word. It only took three sentences from God’s word to make the devil quit tempting Jesus and leave!

And do not be mistaken, Satan knows God’s word, but he will twist it to suit his desires. There’s a great deal of that going on in the world today and it is no surprise to God. He told us through Paul’s second letter to Timothy that “a time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).” When we slowly change God’s word to fit our present sinful circumstances, we are listening to the subtle lies of Satan, the father of lies.  Beware, Satan has a plan! But be encouraged because “greater is He who is in you (God’s Holy Spirit) than he who is in the world (Satan)” (1 John 4:4 NASB).

The next thing we must do to watch Satan retreat is to submit to God. We submit to God when we draw near to Him, cleanse our sinful hands and purify our double-minded hearts.  This means we must confess our sins to God, ask for His forgiveness and change our hearts to a single mindedness, focusing solely on the Lord. This is not always easy, but God’s word promises when we do this and resist the devil he will flee. Another great promise is if we humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord, he will exalt us (James 4:7-10). Satan does not want that to happen, so he will press even harder on anyone who submits to the Lord. Another way to make the devil scram is to put on some praise and worship music and join in!

While trying to guide the hornet toward the outside door, I became fearful the closer it got to me. This resulted in screams and a bruise-producing fall to the floor. When I try to fight Satan with my own ideas and my own strength, fear will get the best of me and I will come crashing down. I must rely solely on the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Israelites were being taunted by their enemies during the rebuilding of the temple, the Lord Almighty spoke to the leader Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). He encouraged him with truth that God’s Spirit would defeat the enemies and the temple would be rebuilt.

So, just how did that hornet get into my house in the first place?  The fireplace doors were closed, but the porch door which stays open a great deal of time during the warmer months was an open invitation to all types of uninvited winged creatures. Every time I allow my eyes to watch or read ungodly things, my ears to listen to ungodly music or speech, I am basically leaving the door open for Satan to enter into my world. The truth is that we live in a fallen world where Satan is still trying hard to stop God’s plans, but this should not be an excuse to roll out the red carpet of our lives for him. Instead, let’s invite Jesus to rule our day before we get out of bed!

Another truth my hornet adventure reminded me was that there is one powerful weapon that has destroyed Satan for good. Just as the wasp spray brought on the demise of the scary hornet, Jesus’ death on the cross has eradicated Satan and death. When Jesus took all the sins of the world on himself on that tree, he said, “It is finished.” We may not understand why God is allowing Satan to roam the earth looking for someone to devour now that Jesus has paid for our sins, but we can rest assured that Satan is finished!

So, when he comes buzzing into your life, tell him that you aren’t afraid of him because he’s as good as dead. Tell him to go back to hell where he came from in Jesus name!

 

Praying for Our Children

As a mother, how do you pray for your children?  By asking this question, I am assuming that you do pray for your children. I do not have the privilege of praying for more than one birth child as so many mothers do, but that doesn’t stop me from praying for that one and only son that God entrusted to me and my husband.  My prayer time for our son is literally a spiritual battle between the voice of Satan who accuses me of all the things I did or didn’t do in raising my child and the words of God that I claim from the scriptures and His still small voice in my Spirit.

The Lord reminded me of the legacy my son has with at least three godly great-grandmothers and two godly grandmothers. I too want to leave that same kind of legacy. As I was reading the beginning of Paul’s second letter to the young pastor Timothy, the fifth verse stuck a familiar chord. It says,

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Why would Paul include this in his letter?  And why would God make sure it was included in His inspired word?  I believe Paul said these words to encourage Timothy who was no doubt leading the church in Ephesus during very difficult times for believers.  We can only guess as to why God would include this little family history in His Word that would survive generations. This is what I love about God’s word, every bit of it is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). So thousands of years after Paul encouraged Timothy, these “God-breathed” words are still encouraging me.

Who was it that led Timothy to the Lord?  Was it his father? (Acts 16:1) No, it was his own mother and grandmother who demonstrated Jesus’ love to him daily, taught him the scriptures, and lived out their sincere faith.  I believe God placed these words in his divine love letter for all the believing mothers who pray daily for their children to grow up loving and serving the Lord Jesus Christ with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength.  Many mothers today long to hear someone say about their child(ren) that they are “reminded of their sincere faith.” I am one of those mothers! Although my son, knows the truth and has accepted Jesus as his Savior, I still pray daily for him to take his next step and let Jesus be the Lord of his life, demonstrating his own “sincere faith.”

So here’s a question for all believing and praying mothers out there. How would you fill in the blank?

My child has _____________faith.

Would you truly be able to say “sincere faith?”

Or would it be more like:

“insurance” faith

“get me out of jail” faith

“I’ll come to you only when I need you” faith

“Sunday morning only” faith

“I’ve got this for now” faith

“Christmas and Easter” faith

“no faith”

The list could go on and on for whatever situation our children are in at the moment and I am not putting it out there to discourage you, only to give you ammunition for the battle when you pray. DO NOT let Satan convince you that this is the only type of faith your child(ren) will ever have if it’s not truly sincere faith.

Could someone describe your child with sincere faith like his/her mother? Your faith may be the very catalyst that God will use to draw your child(ren) to Him. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,’ and it will move” (Matthew 17:20). He also told the father of the demon possessed boy that “Everything is possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23). Even when the Satanic darts of doubt is aimed at your heart, cry out to Jesus like this father did, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

Then claim the words God gave to Paul when writing to the Philippian believers, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in (your child’s name) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Nothing is too hard for God!!

 

New Year, New You?

As the New Year began many made resolutions dealing with all sorts of things such as weight, health, finances, relationships, etc.  According to the experts (whoever they are) today, January 14, is the day that most people will give up on those promises they made to themselves to change.  Maybe our resolutions don’t make it past the two-week mark because we are going about it all the wrong way. Maybe instead of resolving to do something we can never do on our own, we ask the only One who can make change happen to help us. But first, maybe, just maybe we should consult Him on what type of changes He wants us to make. I’m not referring to your spouse, your boss, your significant other or any person other than the One True God, the Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

God’s story recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible is about his choosing a people to make Him known to the rest of humanity and how they kept messing up because they tried to do things their own way instead of God’s.  God would allow the consequences; the people would cry out to Him for help; He would deliver them and they would listen to him for awhile.  But it wouldn’t take long for the crazy cycle to begin again. Finally, after many years of this cycle, God allowed the ultimate consequence- the fall of the nation of Israel, his chosen people and the captivity of these people by other nations.  (God in his mercy had warned them this would happen. Leviticus 26:33, Deuteronomy 28).

Many read this and think who could serve a God like that, but God is compassionate and merciful. He would not forsake them forever. After seventy years they would be allowed to return home to Israel and rebuild. They began to rebuild the temple but stopped after opposition from neighboring provinces. So they proceeded to build their own houses and sow their own fields.  But they made one huge mistake! They didn’t complete the rebuilding of the Temple for many years. The Temple was God’s dwelling place at that time and He was not pleased. They had totally forgotten again all that He had done for them and went about living their lives in their own way, so God caused a drought on not only the land but EVERYTHING including all their labor (Haggai 1:11).

As I read the passage in the first chapter of Haggai (a book of the Old Testament that we many of us rarely read), one question that God asked the people stood out to me.  He asked, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?” I felt the sense that God is asking the same today. “Is it time for you to live in your spacious, modern houses full of stuff and mortgage debt while my house lies desolate?”

You may wonder, what house is desolate?  There are churches everywhere (especially in the South!) and the parking lots are full of cars every Sunday.  But I’m not speaking of a physical building as God’s dwelling place, but of his people today who are His temple.  True children of God believe that He loves them so much that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus to take their place on the cross, taking the punishment of death that they deserve and that Jesus rose from the dead and returned to Heaven with his Father. Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of those who believe. Believers are now the temple of God.

So, the question for all who believe is this, “Is God’s dwelling place (you) lying desolate?”

The word desolate in the Hebrew language is “chareb” which means waste, dry, parched, ruined.  Do any of these adjectives describe your life? Do you feel desolate, parched, dry, even ruined?

Here’s where the New Year’s resolution idea comes back into play.  God told the Israelites to consider their ways.  All they had been doing was for nothing.  Until God’s temple was restored, they would be wasting their time and energy on things that would be destroyed.  The same could be said for us today.  We must consider our ways.  We must restore God’s dwelling place.

God is our Creator, Provider, Savior and Lord. He deserves to live in a beautiful palace.  His dwelling place is more than just our outside physical body.  It’s also what’s inside of you.  Ask yourself if God would want to reside in a house that is dry and parched; one that is filled with anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, sexual immortality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, and lying (Colossians 3: 5-9). I think not!

So, is it too late to change?

NO!!

First consider your ways and ask God to forgive you where you’ve messed up (He’s good at doing this). Then ask Him to show you what areas you need to change this year. But remember we can’t do any changing on our own, we must have his power working in us. Wake up every day asking God for his help and trust that he loves you and will give you exactly what you need. Then we can truthfully say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Love Accountant

Do you like to make lists? Grocery lists, medical lists, job related lists, list of family’s needs, movies to see lists, songs to purchase lists, and the list goes on and on.  With today’s technology it’s as simple as typing or speaking a few words on our cell phones or voice controlled personal assistant devices such as Alexa. For those of us who are trying to keep up with our ever changing hi-tech society, the days of actually writing out schedules, agendas, or any other arrangement of words are quickly being filed away in manila envelopes designed for flimsy metal cabinets. I guess I’m old school when it comes to making lists because I still write with pen on paper some items I need to pick up at my local Walmart and even business I need to get done for the day.  No matter how it’s done, keeping records is essential in so many areas of life, such as prescription drugs that a person takes, but there is one list that is not necessary.

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians dealing with love, he simply states, “it (love) keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV). This means that the love like that of Jesus does not pen on paper, dictate on devices or even memorize in our minds any wrong done to us or anyone else by another person. There’s just no need to recall the evil done. The New American Standard Bible says it like this, “Love…. does not take into account a wrong suffered.” If we call to mind the wrongs that caused us or anyone else to suffer, we in our flesh have the tendency to want to take revenge.  But Paul warns us, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, “It is mine to avenge, I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:19 NIV).

It’s our human nature to want to share all the wrongs done to us and in order to do this, we would have to make a mental or even tangible note of them.  We live in a society where everyone is a victim and all the wrongs done are published on social media and television news. I’m not saying that those who do wrong should not be punished, but when we record them, they are there for us to dredge up time and time again. This is not what love does. According to the wise King Solomon, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12 NIV). And Peter reminds us “to love deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV).

Ok, so this means I can’t keep a list (even if it’s in my head) of all the times my husband knowingly or unknowingly says or does something that upsets me. (And the same goes for him!) This is taking away all the ammunition for an explosive argument, the type when one spouse points out a wrong done by the other and the response is “well, you did so and so five years ago!” This type of “discussion” can become a never ending cycle like a hamster on an exercise wheel that gets it nowhere!

We must also love our children, siblings, parents, friends, neighbors, co-workers and everyone in which we have any type of relationship the same way.  We just simply cannot bring up past wrongs. We need to be love accountants with a new strategy of recording only the good deposits- “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).  In God’s economy, He will take care of the liabilities.  The return on this investment of love will be immeasurable!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slow to Anger

A little over a year ago, I began periodically posting about the abundant life we can have when we exercise love Jesus’ way. Numerous people have tried to define and express what love really is, but there is no better explanation than the one that the apostle Paul “posted” in his first “blog” (letter) to the church in Corinth nearly 2000 years ago.  This is because his words were inspired by God himself.  Unlike Paul, I have not heard the voice of Jesus audibly, but the Spirit of God teaches me things every time I open his word. This is not just for those who attempt to write blogs or books, but for every person who believes that Jesus is their Savior and Lord.  I hope my words will bless you as I continue to share what the Holy Spirit is teaching me about love.

This post deals with love in contrast to quick anger or provocation. Below are just some of the various translations and versions of 1 Corinthians 13:5.

Love is NOT easily angered-NIV       Love is NOT provoked- overly sensitive-AMP

Love is NOT irritable – NLT               Love is NOT easily provoked – King James

Love is NOT provoked- NASB           Love does NOT fly off the handle- The Message

Although there is a place for righteous anger over things that displease God, common sense tells us that love and illegitimate anger cannot be bosom buddies. The God-given wisdom of King Solomon supports this by directing us not to make friends with a hot-tempered person or associate with one easily angered, or we may learn their ways and get ourselves ensnared (Proverbs 22:24-25). Being easily angered or provoked means that we let things or people set us off which can spur us to react in ungodly ways or as the Message puts it “fly off the handle.” This is exactly what Satan the master of entrapment wants to happen.

Just a few months ago I walked right into Satan’s trap of becoming easily angered.  I hate to admit that because being a fifty-something year old woman, I thought I had mastered the art of not letting people or situations provoke me.  This just proves that God’s word is true when He said through Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.”

It all started with a trip to the dreaded Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Like most people, you probably would not put the word “love” in the same phrase or sentence with the DMV. God has a unique way of revealing areas of our life where we really don’t have it altogether as much as we like to think. My particular revelation came immediately following several visits to two different DMV offices within a few weeks of each other.

News Flash!  I haven’t mastered the art of not letting people or circumstances provoke me!

I asked God to forgive me for not loving His way and sat down at my laptop to pen the details of my DMV experience, all the while thinking God was finished with me in this matter. Once completed, I saved the document with all intentions of editing and posting it later. But there was something nagging at me that I couldn’t put my finger on, so I left it alone for a later date when I had more time to devote to writing.

It didn’t take long for my “Holy Spirit finger” to point out what was nagging me.

You see, my DMV story was how I became easily provoked by a stranger, but God wanted me to realize that I had a more serious problem with getting irritable with those close to me and that my reactions are observed by others.

Case in point, my healthy eighty-six-year old mother who has one extremely frustrating problem. She can’t hear very well!  She does wear hearing aids, but most of the time she either hasn’t got them turned up or she forgets to do what the doctor tells her to do with them. Have you every tried to talk to someone on the phone who can’t hear what you are saying? It’s exhausting to say the least. Even with the Caption Calling phone that writes out what the caller is saying on a screen, she still has difficulty.

Not long after God reminded me of my “anger issue” I called her to tell her the documents that I needed to file her taxes. Somehow she didn’t understand. I know it must be distressing for her as well, but in her desire to know what we are saying, she doesn’t wait to let the caller finish their sentence and talks over them. I lost my patience with her and asked her in a very dishonoring tone to please just listen. Immediately after I ended the call, my husband sitting across the room pointed out to me how ugly I had been.  Oh, why did I let such a little incident provoke me to anger?! I called a couple of days after the initial phone call to apologize (yes, I know. I should have done it that day!) She said she didn’t even notice.

You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal if we get angry at someone or a particular situation if we aren’t hurting anybody?” After all my mother didn’t even notice how ungodly and dishonorable I was treating her. (Side note- “Honor your father and mother-which is the first commandment with a promise- so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.”Ephesians 6:2-3.)

But God noticed.

And what about others? When the unbelieving world looks at me, what do they see? Would anyone be attracted to Christ by watching me lose my temper? When a new believer sees me acting un-Christ like, how does this affect their walk with Christ?

According to James 1:20, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (NASB).”As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, when God looks at me, he sees me as righteous because Jesus shed his blood for me on the cross, taking away my sins. But this does not give me permission to act out in anger whenever I feel slighted. If I am allowing my anger to rule, when the world looks at me, they don’t see the righteousness of God. My witness is tarnished, possibly destroyed.

According to Romans 8:29, God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son (Jesus). That means we are to grow more and more like Jesus who taught us that he and the Father are one. God, the Father proclaimed many times in His word that He is slow to anger.  And I am so grateful that He is! (Here are just a few verses that remind us of this: Exodus 34:6, Psalm 86:15, Joel 2:13).

So, the question is, “Are we slow to anger and becoming more like God the Father and Jesus the Son in regards to how we react to people and circumstances?

If we are still letting people and circumstances get under our skin, then the answer is a resounding NO. As God’s children, we should be compelled to confess our sin and ask God for the strength not to react in a way that does the gospel of Jesus harm especially to those who truly need Him. I can attest that reacting negatively to people who grate on your nerves affects not only your spiritual health but your physical health as well.  (Satan obviously doesn’t want me to write about this subject because he keeps putting sandpaper people in my path! So, I must follow my own advice- Oh Lord, forgive my ungodly reactions to people who grate on my nerves and give me strength to be Jesus to these people.)

If we are slow to anger, then YES, we are exercising love God’s way that will only lead to experiencing the abundant life that He died to give us. This is where I want to be!

How about you?