Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fear or Faith?

We who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and who have received His free gift of grace should be the most bold and courageous servants for Him. But are you? Are you walking in the fullness of the gift that Jesus died to give you? There is only one you. No one else can do what the Lord has equipped you to do in this world. Are you letting Him lead you or do you have control of the reins? I'll let you ponder those questions for a while. I have had the last 10 months to think about them.

The bible is full of stories of people who faced many challenges in their lives. Some of my favorite characters are the ones who faced great adversity yet preserved and were used through it. Abraham, Joseph, Job, David and Paul all had reasons to question what God was doing. Yet their faith in Him remained strong.

When the storms of this life hit you with a devastating blow how do you respond? I know in my own life I am the most miserable when I am full of fear and I constantly question what God is doing. Or when I do things half halfheartedly. Half obedience is not obedience at all.

Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and all that he knew, to go to another land that God would give him as an inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. Later Abraham and Sarah believed that God would keep His promise to give them a son even though they were way beyond the age of child bearing and Sarah was barren. (Hebrews 11: 8-12)

Yes Abraham and Sarah had faults. It took many years for the promise of a son to come to pass. They tried to help God along by having Abraham sleep with Sarah's maid servant Hagar. It had some unpleasant consequences. (Genesis 16:1-6) There was another time where Abraham was afraid and tried to pass Sarah off as his sister for fear King Abimelech would kill him if they discovered that Sarah was his wife. (Genesis 20: 1-18)

Years after Isaac was born God again tested Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering. Abraham believed that if God did indeed let him go through with killing Isaac that He had the power to raise him up again. In the end an angel intervened. A ram was used as the sacrifice and God blessed Abraham with the promise of having too many decedents to number them. (Genesis 22:1-19)

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was unjustly accused by Potiphar's wife and spent years in prison. Then years later Joseph was called to interpret Pharaoh's dream. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge over Egypt and in the end many people including Joseph's family were saved from a severe famine. (Genesis chapters 37-45) Joseph could have become bitter by the way he was treated. Instead he gave God the glory and stated that what his brothers meant for harm, God meant for good. (Genesis 50:20)

Job didn't know about the conversation that God and Satan had regarding him in Job chapter 1. He suffered through many afflictions that God allowed Satan to inflict on him. After the first 7 days his comforters turned on him and accused Job of sinning. Job's own wife told him to curse God and die. He went through more than most of us will ever experience. He questioned God. When God answered back, Job said, “I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” (Job 42:5) When Job prayed for his friends the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as before. (Job 42: 10) My favorite verse in that book is “Though he slay me yet will I trust him.” (Job 13:15 NKJV) We have to look beyond the circumstances because when we do we see God.

David was appointed king then ran for his life from King Saul. David committed murder and adultery and yet he was still called a man after God's own heart.

Paul, formally Saul, had persecuted Christians. He held the clothes of the men while they stoned Stephen to death. On the road to Damascus, he heard the Lord and went on to be a champion for Christ. Yet the Lord said that Paul would suffer much for His Name and he did. Paul was beaten with rods, stoned, ship wrecked, and bitten by a serpent. Yet when he was imprisoned in Philippi, chained and beaten he still sang praises to the Lord with Silas.

These are precious stories that should encourage each of us. Pray and ask God which ones you should explore more fully.

I said in the first post that I was tired of feeling fearful and wanted to know the Lord more. He granted that request. When all else is stripped away and we have nothing left to rely on, the only place we have to go is into the arms of Jesus. I wanted more and the Lord was faithful to deliver. Do I want to repeat the process it took to get there? No. Was it worth it? Most definitely.

Take some time in prayer. Ask the Lord if there are areas in your relationship with Him that need to change. Then dare to allow Him to do it. Change usually hurts but anything that draws us closer to the Lord is worth it.

If you like what you read, thank God for it. If you don't, tell Him.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Will or Yours?

Note: The first post, “Want More?” was originally written a few days before Christmas 2013. It has been revised but the principals still hold true for any season. There is a challenge at the end of it that you need to prayerfully consider before moving on to other posts.

When I wrote “Want More?” I was going through another Christmas season alone. My Christmas wish was the same request I had made shortly after my husband had passed away. I was sitting on the couch hugging my dog. All I could pray was “Lord, I don't care what it takes or what I lose all I want is to know you more.”

The Lord granted my request. In the process came even more change. I sold the house that we had lived in for seventeen years and gave away or sold most of my possessions. The hardest part was leaving the small church where I had come to know Christ as Lord and Savior and saying goodbye to my friends who had been my family for the last fourteen years. With the vehicle packed and my dog secured in the back seat, we moved a thousand miles away back to relatives that I didn't know all that well.

When God moves He gives us the strength to accomplish His will. What I didn't expect was the confusion and anger I felt once I arrived at my destination. The last several months have been a time of great healing for me. It is a new season and the opportunities are endless. Yet I found myself struggling to do what I know that I should do. The Lord took me back to the story of Jonah.

Jonah was a prophet whom God called to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, to proclaim God's judgment against it because of the wickedness of the people who lived there.

God loves all people. Jonah didn't want the people of Nineveh to repent. He knew if the people turned back towards God, that God would have mercy on them and cancel His plans to destroy them. Jonah chose to run from the Lord by going in the opposite direction from which the Lord command him to go. How many times have you run from what the Lord has asked you to do?

There is no hiding from God. He knows all and sees all. Jonah boarded a ship heading west to Tarshish. A great storm arose. In order to save the ship Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard. They did, but God wasn't done with Jonah. A great fish swallowed him. After three days and nights in the belly of the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord. The Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah up on the beach. Jonah found himself closer to the exact place where he didn't want to be.

Then the Lord again spoke to Jonah and commanded him to go to Nineveh to deliver the message of judgment he had been given. (Jonah 3:1-2) God had given Jonah another chance but He also still had the same requirements of Jonah. Our disobedience will not change God's mind on what He has for us to do. He didn't say to Jonah, “I know that you don't agree with Me, it is okay you can go home now.”

Oswald Chambers said, “Doing God's will is never hard. The only thing that is hard is not doing His will.” God often calls us to do things that we don't understand or that take us out of our comfort zone. Like Jonah we have a choice in how we respond. We can believe the promise in Psalm 32:8 that says, “ I will guide you along the best pathway for your life,” says the Lord. “I will advise you and watch over you.” Or we can do it our way. He always gives us the choice.

 I know that I am the most miserable when I am full of fear and don't trust what the Lord is doing. This life doesn't come with a road map that explains every move and everything that will happen in our lives or why God wants us to do something.
God sent Jonah to Nineveh because He wanted the people to turn back to Him and be saved from destruction. I would like to say that Jonah rejoiced that the people of Nineveh turned from their evil ways and were spared. But Jonah's attitude was that he would rather die than see the people saved. The people needed to hear Jonah's message and he needed to deliver it. Jonah didn't want God to bless his enemies. He delivered the message but his attitude wasn't right. 

I am not really sure what happened to Jonah at the end of the story. I do know that when we don't trust God, when we question His motives, when we disobey and don't do what we should do or do something that He said not to do, we are the ones who miss out on the best that He had planned for us. It is far better to take His hand then to run from Him. 

Jonah is a story which holds great lessons for each of us. It is four short chapters. I would encourage you to read it and ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to learn through it. 
If you like what you read, thank God for it. If you don't, tell Him.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Want More?

Every day not just Christmas should be a day to give thanks for the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But we cannot remember Christmas without remembering Easter as well. For God, Himself came in the form of a helpless baby to save His people from their sins, to bridge the gap between man and God. Thirty Three years later Jesus hung on the cross to pay the penalty for that sin and declared that it is finished. In saying that, each of our sins past, present and future have been accounted for and paid for in full.

Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior should be the most thankful, bold and courageous servants for Christ as He wants us to be. But are we? Are we who call on His Name walking in the fullness of His gift to us?

With the modern age comes vast improvements in communication. We have instant access to news that bombards us with all that is wrong in the world. Social media, Email and texting have taken the place of gathering together and socializing with families and friends. So many are so busy or consumed with the cares of this life that it has left us fearful and joyless and we forget the gift that was given. God's gift of grace brings radical freedom in our lives when we truly embrace it.

Recently the Lord posed a series of questions to me that change my perspective. Several stood out: What would my church look like to a dying world if My children who call on My Name used the gifts and talents that I placed in each one of them in the way that I intended? What if they obeyed Me completely without doubt and trusted that I have My best for them through what I allow?

We are not made to live in spiritual poverty. If we are walking with the Lord and abiding in Him then we will have all we need, not necessarily what we want. But if we doubt, if we try to do it on our own we hamper what God wants to do in us and through us. Life doesn't always turnout the way that we want it to. Along the journey are gut wrenching events that change our lives and test our faith. How we respond to those events ultimately dictates how we live and how we love and serve others.

A friend and I are both going through a lot at the same time. At times we wonder where God has been in all of it. Have you ever wondered that about your own life? The answer is He is always right beside us. Just  because we haven't sensed Him doesn't mean He hasn't been here all along. (Heb 13:5) 

The Lord has used different means to plant the same yearning in both of us. We are both tired of living in fear and of feeling like we are barely hanging on. We want more. What we want more than anything is more of Jesus. To be so full of His Holy Spirit that He spills out of us onto everyone that we meet.

Many are turned off by the church. They see hypocrisy and don't want to go there. They see religion instead of having a relationship with Christ. What they seek is people who are living what they preach. What they want is not a list of dos and don’ts but to be loved unconditionally. John 10:10 NLT says “The thief’s (Satan) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” The New King James Version says “an abundant life”. That doesn't mean when we go to heaven. That means that we are to enjoy the life that we have been given now.

Receiving God's forgiveness in order to spend eternity with Him is pretty simple. Romans 10:9 NLT “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Once you do that life becomes an adventure of losing yourself and being molded into the image of Christ. Is it painful? Usually. Is it worth it? Most definitely.

It isn't just the Pastor and Elders in the church that are called to ministry. We all have our own little areas of influence that the Lord has given each of us: Co-workers, family, friends. How we act and respond around them greatly influences their view of Christ and of His church. Do we exhibit the fruit of the spirit? (Galatians 5:22-23) Are we kind and patient to those we meet? Do we exhibit gentleness and self-control? Is there Agape love (a love of commitment) and a joy that no one else but the Holy Spirit can produce in us? Giving a kind word, a smile, opening the door for a stranger, giving a compliment all go a long way to making someone's day a bit brighter.

All I know is I want more. It is time to live the way Christ intended so that when the world looks at us they want what we have – Jesus. What about you? Do you dare come on the journey with me?

I will try to update this site at lease once per week. If you like what you read, thank God for it. If you don't, tell Him.