Monday, October 27, 2014

Please Pray for Sandra

My sister, Sandra, and her husband, Mark, are leaving this evening for Dallas.  They'll be spending the day tomorrow doing all of the pre-op for Sandra's thyroid surgery.  Her surgery is Wednesday morning at 8:00.  I'd love for the doctor to get in there and find absolutely no cancer!  (They've already said it is cancer.)  My mom and I will be going tomorrow and be there for the surgery.  I'd really appreciate you lifting Sandra up in prayer.  I know God hears.  We trust Him.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

God Is Committed to Change...and Yet Never Changes

Don't you love how God never changes?  He's our anchor, our compass as we continually change.  And He's committed to our change.  He's told us to work out our own salvation (of our soul--mind, will & emotions).  Philippians 2:12.  He's told us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Romans 12:2.  We are to become more and more like Christ.

I'm so glad God is committed to changing me.  God has proven once again that I don't even know my own heart.  Jeremiah 17:9.  He's a surgeon who is a perfectionist.  He comes offering surgery...and yet I have to agree to allow him to lay bare my heart.  But once I do, He gently folds back the layers of my heart to show me what is in there.  Even though it's ugly and repulsive, it's such a relief to see. Because I know it's not only going to be uncovered and revealed, but it's about to be taken out of there!  Knowing the truth sets me free.  And another layer of the "onion peel" is taken off of me.  I'm becoming more and more free.

What did God remove?  A resisting.  Actually, kicking and screaming against Him.  I didn't even know I was.  How could I not know that?  Because it was so hidden and covered up by years and years of junk.

This morning, Andy preached on Jeremiah 33:3--how we can call on God and He will show us great and mighty things we don't even know.  Sometimes those great and mighty things are the deep, hidden recesses of our own heart.  But in the revealing of those things, comes something even greater.  He shows His power.  He discloses His love.  He exposes His great mercy, forgiveness, healing and hope.

I believe as God continues to change me, I will know Him more deeply.  My trust in Him only grows.  I love Him like never before.  I know He loves me.   And sometimes...yes, sometimes...I even come asking for that surgery.  After you taste that kind of freedom, you begin to crave it.  Change in me is good.  I'm so glad He's changeless...I need a compass.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The River by Beverly Lewis

The River is another book based on Amish life by Beverly Lewis, the veteran authority on the subject--having grown up near Lancaster County.

In this book, Tilly & Ruth, two sisters who grew up in the Amish community, have departed from their Plain upbringing.  But their father's illness and their brother's phone call has brought them home for two weeks...which turns into more as they stay to help their parents move.  Of course, the trip reveals not only what happened at the river so many years ago, but the family conflict which caused Tilly and then Ruth to leave their home.  Tilly returns to Lancaster County with her husband's blessing and his hopes that Tilly will finally deal with her past.  Tilly's twins, Tavani and Jenya, have never met their Amish grandparents....which is just as well since Tilly doesn't feel loved by her own father.

Ruth has a former boyfriend and potential husband to deal with when she returns to Lancaster County.  Who is a better fit for her?  The new man in her new church who is showing interest in her...or a former Amish boyfriend who showed more interest in some wayward friends than her years ago?  Ruth will only return home and face her past if her sister, Tilly, returns with her.

Follow Tilly & Ruth as they return home, experience Amish life again, and deal with their past which involves a dark river.

I'd give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka

Gina Homolka was one of those who could eat anything she wanted and not gain an ounce...until she had babies.  After gaining weight with pregnancies, she went to Weight Watchers to initiate a lifestyle of eating sensibly and losing weight.  The only problem she faced was tasteless foods.  Most of the light or healthy foods had no flavor and didn't entice all.  So she started a journey (and a blog) dedicated to taking her favorite foods and turning them into healthy meals.

Her cookbook, The Skinnytaste, is full of not only wonderful looking recipes, but she's included reasons why you should follow in her footsteps.  She gives guides for shopping, remaking your kitchen into a healthy place, and all of the necessary numbers you're going to want from a recipe (fat content, calories, carbs, etc.).  You'll love the photos and stories in this cookbook.

These are not your typical "healthy, light recipes."  These are fabulous meals from breakfast to dessert which just may win you over to the light side.  In fact, as I perused the cookbook, I recognized several photos of foods I'd seen on Pinterest or Facebook.  Her recipes are highly shared in both forums.  Because her recipe list grew, and because she was a graphic design artist, she started the blog, to house her recipes.  Her readership grew and began sending in their reports of how the recipes had helped their own weight-loss journey.

I encourage you to get this cookbook!  I'd give it a 5 out of 5 stars.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wildly Waving Palm Branches

Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey while palm branches are wildly waved, reminds me of when David returned from battle and the people exclaimed, "Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his ten thousands!!"  David was a "type" of Christ.

Not only did it rouse fear and jealousy in Saul, it roused jealousy in the Pharisees.  They wanted to silence...and then kill Jesus.  They were jealous for how many were leaving their traditional ways and teachings to follow this miracle worker.  He was life...they were death.

It makes me think of the quandary of the church today.  The younger generation is willing to follow Jesus into the unknown.  They don't care about tradition.  They care about LIFE!  "Is it true?  I'm following Jesus!"  And the response of the traditional church?  FEAR.  Which leads to jealousy and punching holes in the arguments of that generation.  Death.  Division.  Disunity.

The reality is Jesus said, "Come.  Follow Me."  And that may look a 1000 different ways.  He will get us out of our comfort zone.  If. we. let. go...He will take us to unimaginable places.  We will see Him glorified.  We'll want to wave palm branches wildly before Him.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Great Sermon Recovery

Jesus had gotten up early that morning and gone to the Mount of Olives where we can only assume he met his Father in prayer.  That was where he normally went to pray.  And much he needed to hear his Father that day.  A trap had been set for him.

Imagine going to the temple to hear Jesus that morning...the rabbi everyone was talking about.  I'm sure many had their children in tow.  I'm just as sure most mamas pulled their children out of the crowd and took them home when those angry men threw the adulterous woman into the center of the temple and created their own "court."  And actually, that's where they the temple court.  Jesus had been teaching and his sermon was interrupted by this fiasco.

We know the scribes & Pharisees weren't really concerned about the law.  That's what they used, "the law says we should stone her to death.  What do you say?"  Because if they were concerned about the law, they would have brought the man also.  I have to wonder about that trap.  How was it set up?  Were they snickering, drawing straws?  Who was watching?  Was the man in their midst even as they accused the woman?  Were they all guilty?

We know what happened.  Jesus knelt on the ground and wrote in the dirt.  And the men left conscience-stricken from the oldest to the youngest.  And he told the woman he didn't condemn her...but to go and sin no more.  Grace.  Forgiveness.  Instruction in righteousness.

And Jesus used this sermon interruption for one of the greatest sermon recoveries ever.  In fact, he moved to the treasury of the temple to teach it.  I think it was because he was teaching true treasures.  Imagine how powerful this sermon became after what the people had just seen!  He told the people these things:

  • I am the Light of the world.  If you follow me, you won't walk in darkness--you'll have Light.
  • I didn't come to judge.  But I could if I wanted to because my judgment is right.  
  • My Father is God.  Your father is the devil--directed to scribes & Pharisees.
  • I am the Truth who sets you free.
  • I do only those things the Father tells me to do.
  • Whoever is of God listens to God.
  • My honor comes from God, not man.
The scribes and Pharisees came to stone the message.  But after Jesus taught these powerful truths, they turned to stone the Messenger.   

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Stand Firm

"Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]."  Ephesians 6:13

Cognitive Dissonance.  I'd never heard of it until last week.  It's a psychological term which is an assumption that an individual is seeking consistency between their reality and their expectations and they're confronted with information which is inconsistent with their beliefs.  Imagine a person moving and building a house right by a dam.  When they build it, they know that there's a chance of the dam breaking, but they don't believe it ever will.  Now imagine a warning going out that the dam is about to burst.  I'm told that people who live three miles away will be panicked.  People two miles away will be freaked out.  But people who live closest to the dam will not be concerned.  That's cognitive dissonance.  They can't line up their reality with what they've expected.

Paul was in prison.  But from prison, he told us to get in the battle.  It's not a battle against one another.  Any general will tell you that the first thing you need to be able to identify in any battle is your enemy.  Our battle is against the enemy of God...Satan and his demons.   Ephesians tells us that we are to stand against the deceit and strategies of the enemy.  That takes an awareness, an alertness and a willingness to get in the battle.  Paul urges his friends to pray that he'll have boldness and courage from prison to preach the gospel!  That's not a picture of someone experiencing cognitive dissonance.  He's engaged and alert.

You've probably seen this on Facebook, but I thought it was appropriate to share here.  We're told to gird up our loins for the battle.  It's getting fully ready for action.  It's the act of a warrior.  We're to put on the whole armor of God (please take the time to read about each piece!) and take up our sword and shield.  We're to engage the enemy!  We're not to get so overwhelmed with the crisis that we become frozen in place.  It's easy to get to the place in a crisis where you think, "What can I do?  I can't change anything!"  The battle can be intense and wearing.  But it says when we've done all we can do...stand firm.  Stand your ground!  Don't give the enemy territory which belongs to you.  Pray at all times, keep alert, and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, Paul says.

I can tell you from the battles I've been engaged in recently, that it's so easy to lose perspective.  I think that's why people who live closest to the dam become unconcerned.  They don't have others giving them a broader perspective or warning them.  I don't know how I would have walked through some of the battles I've faced recently without friends who were praying, encouraging, and shouting when they saw the enemy coming towards me!  They were engaged in the battle with me.  When you read about the armor in Ephesians, there's nothing to cover the back.  That's because it's expected that you'll have fellow warriors who will "have your back."  We need one another.  Which reminds me of this verse:

"Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching."  Hebrews 10:25

The day is approaching.  Gear up!  Put your armor on and be prepared to engage in the battle.  If there's no battle in your life, cover a friends' back.  Use the sword of the Spirit!  Pray fervently for one another.  Meet together and encourage and warn one another.  I can tell you that we're going to face many battles...but God is going to win the war!

Stand firm, fellow warrior!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The True Fast

Isaiah 58   
Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? [Is true fasting merely mechanical?] Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?
[Rather] is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house—when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood?
Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness (your rightness, your justice, and your right relationship with God) shall go before you [conducting you to peace and prosperity], and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, Here I am. If you take away from your midst yokes of oppression [wherever you find them], the finger pointed in scorn [toward the oppressed or the godly], and every form of false, harsh, unjust, and wicked speaking,
10 And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.
11 And the Lord shall guide you continually and satisfy you in drought and in dry places and make strong your bones. And you shall be like a watered garden and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of [buildings that have laid waste for] many generations; and you shall be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
I was reminded of this passage this morning in prayer time with my prayer partners.  It's not enough to go through the motions of a fast.  If you're just doing it as an exercise, it does nothing.  You can wear sackcloth and ashes like they did in the O.T., but it means nothing if you're heart's not in it and you're just doing it for show.
A true fast comes as we acknowledge our sin (he even names some in vs. 9) and sorrowfully repent.  True repentance will lead to meeting the needs of others.  As we do those things, the bands (which hold the neck) will be broken!  Do you have something in your life you'd like broken off of you?  I do.  And as I come to God in repentance, that happens.  Don't you love verses 8-12 and the results of a true fast?  HE SETS US FREE!  God wants to break those enslaving yokes off of our lives!  Jesus wants to yoke up with us and He'll carry the heavy burdens and we get the light burdens.
A true fast brings freedom from things which enslave us.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fasting & Praying

I was about 35-years-old the first time I decided to fast and pray.  I fasted about our finances.  I just remember our needs were great and there seemed to be no way out financially.  So I decided to fast and pray about it.  I didn't choose an easy fast...I chose to fast from food for seven days.  So for seven days, I only drank water and devoted my time to praying.  Of course, I wasn't on my knees 24-hours a day for seven days.  I had four kids to take care of and laundry didn't stop for me.  But the purpose of those seven days was ever before me.  The first day wasn't so hard.  I missed those three meals and prayed my heart out.  My grumbling tummy was only a reminder to turn to God in prayer.  The second day was a little harder.  It was hard cooking meals for my family and not eating that day.  And by the end of that day, I had a bad headache.  The third day was the worst.  I've since learned that toxins begin leaving your body on that day and I had a migraine.  Honestly, it was hard to think, let alone pray.  And...I was hungry!  But everything began to change on that fourth day.  The headache was gone and everything seemed to be more focused.  My praying was even more fine-tuned.  I found myself less preoccupied about my finances and more centered on God and coming in agreement with Him.  I had mixed emotions by the end of the seventh day.  I was ready to eat again...but I had so enjoyed a time with God which brought me closer to Him.

I'd been told about fasting and praying since I was a little girl.  I'd heard the story of Esther and when she and her people--the Jews--were about to be annihilated, she called her people to fast and pray as she went before the king to petition for their lives.  In my mind, fasting was for life-threatening situations.  Not finances.  And it was from stories in the Bible.  I didn't know anyone in my life who had fasted.  Of course, Matthew 6 tells us to not make a big deal about it when we fast and pray--with a motive to impress men.  So people around me may have fasted, but I just didn't know about it.

Interestingly, a week of fasting and praying didn't immediately change my finances or my circumstances.  It changed me.  Peace parked itself in my heart.  I knew it had done an obvious work when a man commented to his wife that a change had come over me.  He didn't know what had happened, but I seemed more at peace.

I know fasting is powerful.  If you have something challenging your life, I encourage you to fast and pray.  I know some people can't fast from food because of health issues, but you can fast from things like television or the internet...or something else important to you.  It's coming to God and saying, "I'm overwhelmed! And this is so important to me, I want to make this sacrifice so you know exactly how weighty this thing is to me."  Kings in the Old Testament declared fasts to save their countries from the enemy.  They also called their people to a fast to repent from their sin.   Fasting may not immediately change your circumstances, but I can promise you that you will be changed.  But then may change your circumstances!

I've fasted since then.  I was called by God to fast for a young woman who'd had several miscarriages and was pregnant again.  I fasted one day a week throughout her pregnancy--and she delivered a healthy baby boy.  I've fasted for friends and family who were sick.  I've fasted for a prodigal son...and God brought him home.  I am telling is POWERFUL!  No wonder God tells us that some demons can't be cast out except by fasting and praying.  (Matthew 17:14-21)  I encourage you to try it.  Take your overwhelming needs to God.  You might want to start by fasting one meal and spending that time praying.  Build up to fasting and praying one day...two days...or seven days or more.  Try it and let me know what God does.

*Breakfast took on a whole new meaning to me at the end of those seven days.  I'd never known til then that breakfast was actually a word to signify the end of a fast.  Break-fast.  We break our fast by eating...breakfast.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

God or Government?

"Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God’s appointment. Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged [in divine order]. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves [receiving the penalty due them]."  Romans 13:1-2

When we read these verses, we are reminded just WHO ordained and sanctioned our governing authorities.  God did.  We are to obey our government officials.  If we resist them, we are resisting God--and bringing judgment on ourselves!  Remember this was written when the disciples were under Roman rule.  The Romans...who killed Christians for sport.  God has appointed our government leaders today, too.  He's not wringing His hands over those in authority all over our world.  He's put them there...for His purposes.

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."  II Timothy 2:1-2
It's easy to get frustrated with leaders.  But God has given us the way to make a difference...and I'm afraid we make it our last resort.  PRAY for all in authority!  Do we spend as much time praying for our leaders as we do complaining about them?  That might make a difference!  It would make an even bigger difference if we did no complaining and prayed fervently.  Proverbs 21:1 says God can turn the heart of a king wherever He wants.  

"So they brought them and set them before the council (Sanhedrin). And the high priest examined them by questioning, Saying, We definitely commanded and strictly charged you not to teach in or about this Name (Jesus); yet here you have flooded Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us.  Then Peter and the apostles replied, We must obey God rather than men."  Acts 5:27-29

The important factor we have to keep in mind is that God is over our government.  Not just ours, but each government in the world!  He is the highest and ultimate authority.  He's told us to obey our government, but there does come a time when we must obey God rather than men...or government officials.  There are people all over the world living under godless governments who have to make the same decision Peter and the apostles did.  When told they could not talk about Jesus, they had to obey God.  God trumps government.  
So, do we obey God...or government?  Both.  Until our government tells us to disobey God.  But then we need to know how to obey God.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Led by the Spirit

"God, I love you...but I'm afraid of the Holy Spirit.  I don't want to be.  And I know it sounds ridiculous because you are one and the same.  But there it is.  Please help me overcome this fear.  Amen."

That was a prayer I prayed about twenty years ago.  I grew up in a denomination which talked a LOT about God.  They even liked to talk about Jesus.  But they were uncomfortable in talking about the Holy Spirit.  Isn't that pretty much the way it is?  The world will talk about God comfortably.  But bring up Jesus and they shut down.  Christians will talk about Jesus, but bring up the Holy Spirit in most circles and the conversation nosedives!  I grew up afraid of the Holy Spirit.  I believe it was taught by my denomination.

In the past 20 years, I've become acquainted with the Holy Spirit.  It sounds ludicrous that I was fearful.  After all, he indwelt me at the point of salvation.  But I've learned the Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  Yes...he comes in and occupies our hearts, but I believe he only takes control as we give up our control of each area of our hearts and lives.

What does the Holy Spirit do?
  • He fills & controls us.  Acts 6:5
  • God's love is poured out in us through the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5
  • His mind is life and soul peace. Romans 8:6
  • He is evidence that we belong to God. Romans 8:9
  • He prays for us.  Romans 8:26
  • He confirms truth in our hearts.  Romans 9:1
  • He fills us with hope.  Romans 15:13
  • His power produces signs and wonders.  Romans 15:19
  • He searches and examines truth.  I Corinthians 2:10
  • He produces fruit in us.  Galatians 5:22
  • He comforts, counsels, helps, intercedes, is our advocate, strengthener, standby, teacher, reminds us of what God has taught us.  John 14:26  (All verses from Amplified Version)
This is just a small glimpse of the power and works of the Holy Spirit.  Can you see already what we miss out on if we stop him?  In the first 29 years of my Christian walk, very little grace, light, or hope eeked out of me because I resisted the work of the Holy Spirit.  I was afraid to allow him control of my life.  Why, do you ask?  Because I was afraid he would require me to get out of my comfort zone.  He might give me gifts I didn't want.  He might ask me to do something crazy.  I mean, his first appearance to the church was to come as tongues of fire and cause men to speak in other languages.  That had to look pretty crazy!  But you have to look at the results of that day...3000 men came to Christ!  My fear prevented life and soul peace.  It stunted the growth of fruit in my life.

How can we be led by the Spirit of God if we're resisting him at the same time?  We can't.  Oh, I know God can overcome our resistances.  He is God.  But I believe He's a benevolent God who has given us free choice.  And He waits to be wanted.  I can grab one of my grandchildren and force a hug, but how much sweeter when they crawl up in my lap and hug me because they want to express love to me?  Or you may be like one of my grandsons who was unabashed in his love for me.  He loved to smell me.  It started when he was a little guy and I'd catch him smelling me as I held him.  But then he moved to Florida.  I remember the first time I went to visit after we hadn't seen each other in quite some time.  When I got in the van and sat beside him on the ride from the airport, he kept leaning over and taking in great gulps of smells of me!  I was laughing hysterically!  Don't you think God delights when we open ourselves that way to the Holy Spirit?

My prayer is that we'll stop resisting the Holy Spirit and start allowing him to lead us.  He wants that more than we do.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Listen with Ears Wide Open

"But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future]." John 16:13 (Amp.)

Eighteen years ago, Peter Lord came to our church and I was part of a class he taught to hear God.  I'd just been through a time in my life where I was searching for truth.  I wasn't quick to accept new teachings without examining them, so I started the process of studying to see if it was true that I could hear God.  (Believe me, even though this is the Amplified version, I read each version of this verse--and the Greek--to verify it really did say this--along with all of the verses on hearing God!!)  I'd come out of a system which taught hearing God was no longer valid--after the written word of God was completed.  I encourage you to search it out for yourself all while you're asking God for truth.  I'm just telling you this was the scripture which finally convinced me that not only could I hear God...I should be hearing God!

This morning, we taught "Hearing God" to our Sunday School class of young adults.  It's always exciting to see what takes place.  At one point, I asked the class to stop and listen.  What did they hear around them in the physical world?  Immediately, everyone said, "The clock!"  And someone said, "Birds."  I asked if they'd noticed those sounds before we started the exercise.  They hadn't.  And why hadn't they?  Because they weren't tuned in.  Bingo!  When do we do our best listening?  When we're paying attention to the speaker.  I get frustrated if I try to tell something important to Andy and he's distracted.  I finally give up.  But when we're both giving one another our complete focus, we have a fruitful conversation.  It's the same with God.  He wants our undivided attention.  He wants us tuned in to hear what He has to say to us.  And it will never contradict the scripture--which is why we must be students of the word of God.  It takes practice to hear God.  And not only practice, but it comes from building a relationship.  And that takes intentionality.

Now I'll be the first to tell you that God gives us lots of freedom in decision-making.  But I'm afraid most of us can go for months, or even years, without asking God for His opinion.  What if each of us had a running dialogue going on with God every day?   Not only would our lives be so much more blessed, but I think it would bless God's heart as well.  I know that's the way I feel when my adult children include me in their day, their thoughts, their plans.  It's a privilege for me to be included.  How much more for God!  And He wants to be the director of our steps.

It may seem crazy to think He's concerned about each step you take.  But what if He told you to give a word of encouragement to someone and you later found out it brought them out of a deep depression?  What if He wants to give you a way to reach your child?  What if you have a technical problem at work and He wants to give you the solution?  What if he wants to tell you where to move?  All of those things have actually happened to me.  Or what if He was protecting you, like he did the wise men, and told you to go home another way?  God has spoken to His children many times to protect them.

God may have messages He wants to give us that concern the future.  We need to be listening...with ears wide open.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Obey with Eyes Wide Open

One of the hardest things for a parent to teach a child is to obey.  I remember trying to teach my 2-year-old and 3-year-old how to obey the boundaries I'd set for them in riding their hot cycles.  Children that age just don't understand why they can't ride their hot cycles in the street.  They have no concept of a car racing down the road and endangering their lives.  I went outside with them many times and showed them again and again where the boundaries were.  They knew they could ride on our driveway and to the end of the sidewalk.  But they couldn't go on the neighbor's driveway, for fear their car might back out and not see them.  I'd stay on the porch while they played...and watch. They would ride up to the boundary and stop and look at it.

Matt (3) & Amy (2)

They would ride as fast as they could back to the driveway and do it over and over.  There were times I'd have to yell, "STOP!" and hope for immediate obedience so they wouldn't get hurt.  This went on for many days.  Finally, one day, I stepped inside the house and watched out the window...just to see if they'd obey if I wasn't there.  Matt rode up to the neighbor's driveway, looked back at our house, and poked his foot over the boundary.  I chuckled, but I had to go outside and discipline him.  I needed him to understand that boundaries were boundaries.  And he needed to obey to stay safe.

I think we're going to face days in our future where we need to give strict attention to what the Father says to us.  We need to be quick to obey.  Jesus said, "But so the world might know how thoroughly I love the Father, I am carrying out my Father's instructions right down to the last detail."  (John 14:31)  He came to do everything his Father wanted him to do.  He had to listen...and then obey.  And just like Jesus didn't fear, we shouldn't fear.  

God has put us right where we are in these days for His purposes.  He has a good plan to fulfill through us.  I encourage you to read about how--and in how many ways--Jesus obeyed his Father in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.  I was reading about his first miracle (turning water into wine) this morning in John 2.  (I love that his mom was encouraging him to help out the wedding couple.  How did she know it was time to start his ministry?  Or did she?)  He obeyed by doing miracles, confronting religious leaders, discipling, being in specific places at specific times, etc.  He knew what his ultimate mission was going to die for our sins.  And he was obedient even unto death. (Philippians 2:8)

Obedience sometimes costs us.  But oh!  How much better to obey than disobey.  And even better when we obey quickly.  And when we know what God wants us to do or where to be, it helps alleviate fear.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Prepare with Eyes Wide Open

"Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming."
Matthew 24:42

God loves us so much!  He's adopted us (yet He lets us choose whether we actually want to be adopted) and even though that adoption is final, I know He can't wait to get his hands on us!  He yearns for us. He's waited patiently for us to all be together.  He's had a beautiful plan all along.  Part of that beautiful plan has been to destroy the enemy who has dared to come against His beloved--us.  But that's still in the future.

Have you ever known something, but then one day, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, you really know that thing?  Last week I was meditating on Psalm 23.  You know in verse 4 where it says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."?  I was remembering our trip to Israel.  

I didn't know until I went to Israel that there was an actual Valley of the Shadow of Death!  This is it.  It's a "highway" many travelers took 2000+ years ago to get to the temple each year.  The reason it was named Valley of the Shadow of Death is because there were wild animals, robbers, and murderers who hung out in this valley to prey on the people.  It was very dangerous to travel through there.

I'd always thought of Psalm 23:4 as the time when we walked through death--at the end of our lives.  But the revelation was that this old world and our walk through it--our whole lives--are spent in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  The world is a place of death and has been ever since man sinned.  So even though God has promised us abundant life, His promise is fulfilled while we walk through this scary, dark valley filled with wild, dangerous things.

Life is scary.  And getting scarier.  But we don't have to walk afraid.  God is with us and is carrying His big rod and staff.  And He's an expert at taking out the enemy.  He's told us life is going to get hard at the end.  And it is.  Wars, earthquakes, fires, famines, diseases, terrorists, droughts, tornadoes...just to name a few.  He's prepared us by telling us there will be a one-world government.  In my mind, I knew our government would have to fall for a one-world government to take place.  I just didn't think about how that would look.  I think we're seeing it happen right before our eyes.  There was some invisible point in time where I believe we crossed a line and there seems to be no turning back.  

There will come a time when we won't know who to trust.  Do some of you remember playing Romans & Christians?  The game was for the "Christians" to get to Jesus without the "Romans" capturing them and putting them in prison.  But you didn't know who the Romans were.   We played wild games of this with our youth.  (You'd love the way they play it here--all over town in Groom!)  There may come a time in our future when we don't know who to trust.  We don't have a Walter us the news each night in a firm, calm voice we trusted.  We've become a distrustful society;  probably with good reason.  

Here's what we need to know in the days ahead.  You can trust God.  He has gone before you, He comes behind you, and He keeps His hand of blessing on you.  You are His treasure!  DON'T FEAR!!  He is near, He is listening, He is ready to protect you. He has you in His everlasting arms, His wings shield you, He is a gallant warrior on a white horse ready to swoop in to rescue you!  He is bigger than our enemy!!  He has already won the war even though there's a battle ahead.  Bad things may come, but He is always a GOOD GOD!  He speaks to us, He sings over us, He carries us.  He is tender towards His children but He is ruthless with the enemy.  He is mighty, He is strong, He is a DELIVERER!!  


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

There are GIANTS in the land!

Do you know what I love about teaching children?  What God teaches me in the process.  I've been teaching the life of David to the kids at FBC Groom.  And I must tell you, it's been exciting!  Tonight I taught the story of David & Goliath.  God gave us the stories in the Old Testament to relate to our own lives.  They also foreshadow things in the New Testament.  As I studied and prepared, I saw some things I hadn't seen before.

The story is in I Samuel 17.  One of the first things I saw is that Goliath, fully armored, had a shield-bearer who went out before him.  I'd never seen that before.  I'm sure Goliath was strong.  I mean...he was almost 10 feet tall!  He yelled a lot, too.  He used his size, his strength and his voice to taunt and intimidate.  But he walked behind a shield-bearer.  Interesting.  What I told the kids tonight is that Satan wants us to believe he's a huge giant and he puts giant problems in our lives.  But, like Goliath, he hides behind a shield-bearer.  He sends his minions ahead of him.  You see...he's afraid of our POWERFUL GOD!!  He tests the waters to see if we're going to call on our ALL-MIGHTY GOD to fight for us!  He knows he has no power over God.  I've been thinking on this.  Every time there was a challenge between God and the enemy, God said, "Yeah!  I'll take that challenge!"  When God was challenged, these men rose up to defend the name of God--David, Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego, Elijah, Moses--and God gave them victory.  

Another thing I saw in the story was that David was the youngest of Jesse's sons.  He was probably the youngest guy on the battlefield that day.  Grown men, much older and stronger than David, should have been the ones stepping up to the plate and protecting David.  I mean, come on!  His three older brothers were there and all they did was try to send David home!  But David believed.  He knew the gauntlet had been thrown down to challenge God.  "For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" David asked.  I think honor rose up in him.  Righteous anger!  How dare this man defy God--giant or no giant!  And David had been practicing.  He'd killed a lion and a bear as he defended the sheep back home.  He was skilled with a sling shot.  And of course...God had His hand all over David to guide that stone to the middle of Goliath's forehead.  Killed with one shot!

I reminded the kids tonight that we can be giant-slayers.  The enemy talks loud, tries to scare us, and intimidate us.  But mostly, he's trying to tell us our God's not big enough.  

It was the first time I've taught a Bible story and had spontaneous applause and cheering for how God--through David--killed a GIANT!