Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I also spend time looking back at my prayer journal that I have kept for the past 12 months. It is very interesting to see the adventure that unfolds just living life from day to day. If one were to draw it out in graph form, it would look like some engineers layout for a theme park roller coaster. Lots of ups and downs and loops as well as moments of smooth sailing.
One of our traditions at the beginning of the year, is to choose a scripture from a "Promise Card" holder. Some years, the scripture I pull is exciting and comforting and some years, a mystery. This year was one of those mystery cards. My scripture was Psalm 16:8, "I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." The prayer that was prayed over me was "Resist the devil and he will flee. Find my 'security' in Christ". I did not really understand what this meant until we hit the beginning of March when the rug was pulled out from under my feet. Literally!
In the middle of the night on March 6th, I was awaken by the Lord. I heard as clear as I've ever heard His voice say, "You have to go through this, but don't worry, I am going to be with you all the way." For the next two days I questioned the Lord asking Him what it was I was having to go through. On March 8th we were told that the owner of the home that we were living in was having to sell it. At first, this seemed to be fine as we felt this was the Lord giving us the opportunity to buy our own home. I jumped in with a heart full of faith believing that by the time Easter arrived, we'd likely be moving into our own place. There were hundreds of houses listed so this shouldn't be a very difficult process. Our rental home sold within one month after being listed.
As we began the process, we did find we had limitations, but it didn't seem too difficult until we actually put in our first offer. That was when we realized this process was not going to be that easy. This wide open door for opportunity began to shut, little by little. By the time we hit July we had put in 17 offers that had all been rejected. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I sat in my closet, crying and asking the Lord, what was going on. How could it be so hard for us to find a home?
The summer thermometer began to rise along with challenges we were facing. By the time we hit the end of July, we had to move so that our kids would have time to register for school, not to mention the new owner of the home we were in, was ready to move into his new house. It seemed as though every day was faced with a cement wall, that we had to knock down before we could take the next step. I know this might seem dramatic, but I can truly say that is what it felt like.
As I read through the chronological Bible this year and Jeff taught through the Bible this year, it seemed every week we experienced what we read. There were moments we prepared ourselves for what was coming because of how it lined up with God's Word. My daily devotions became my life preserver for the storms that we were facing. I truly believe, as my scripture says that He is at my right hand, was my commitment to read His Word every day. His Word is the anchor that keeps me from getting lost and tossed when the winds and waves come.
Reflecting back on 2010, I can honestly say this year has been the year my faith has been challenged and stretched. More than any other in my life. If anything, I sit here at this computer writing this entry, feeling much like Peter must have felt when Jesus called him out of the boat (Matthew 14:28-30). Peter even asked Jesus to call him out of the boat. Right there shows that Peter started out with great faith. Just like I did as I took my first steps into 2010. But once his feet crossed over the security of the wooden structure he was in, into the unstable, liquid, that scientifically says is impossible to stand on, not to mention the darkness out there on the lake, fear crept in. He probably couldn't see Jesus either due to the darkness. This picture sounds so familiar to where I am standing today. It was so important for Peter to have recognized Jesus' voice when he was blinded by the darkness of night. This is why I would encourage you, if you have never committed to reading through the Bible, why you should. This is how you hear and recognize His voice when you have to step into the dark sea of faith.
The conclusion to these two verses says that Peter began to sink because he was afraid. I can't tell you how many times this year, I have sunk into my fear, but Jesus has been there to pull me up at each sinking. I can't go back to the boat now and we still have a ways to go before we reach the shore. Hopefully, it won't be much longer before we find a home. I feel more like Jesus is leading me step by step on the sea of faith to show me how important is is for me to hold on to His hand. He is leading my family and me on a path that only He knows the way. As long as I choose to follow him there will always be water underneath my feet and it will always be dark before me. That is why I listen closely to His voice leading me. And I can only do that by reading His Word. But as long as I keep walking with Him, I can always look back and catch the reflection in the water of the boat from where I started. I can see how far I've walked since the day I stepped in.
I hope you will take some time over the next few days to reflect on 2010 and see how far Jesus has taken you since you stepped onto the path of faith. If you find that you are still inside the security of the boat, let me encourage you to climb over the side. You won't be alone because there are several of us out here. Make this your 2011 resolution, to read through His Word. His desire is for you to recognize His voice and hold His hand, especially when it's dark.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
In most one year Bible reading plans, the last few weeks of December we read in Revelation about the "second" coming of Jesus while we celebrate His "first" coming. This just proves how God does everything intentionally. There are so many clues pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.
As I was reading Revelation I had my own revelation about the "first" and "second" coming of Jesus. In Revelation Jesus is called the Lamb of God. "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth." Revelation 5:6. In Revelation 5:12 the heavenly creatures sang in a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"
This sounds so familiar to what the shepherds heard that night in their fields in Bethlehem (Fields pictured above). Bethlehem was the place where the sheep for the Passover sacrifice were raised. Think about this, the sacrificial lambs were bred there in Bethlehem. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was the Lamb of God (John 1:29, John 1:36). They could only use a lamb without blemish or defect for the Passover sacrifice. 1 Peter 1:19 says "the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." 1 Corinthians 5:7 says Jesus is the Passover lamb that was sacrificed.
When the Angels appeared to the shepherds this is what they said, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."(Luke 2:11-14) The key word for me here is sign. There are many signs pointing now to Jesus as the Messiah and who He is in this picture of the nativity.
First, Jesus being the Lamb of God, and being born in a stable and lying in a manger. When we were in Israel, our tour guide showed us what a typical manger would have looked like when we were in Meggido. It's not made out of wood like we see in nativity pictures today. It was carved out of stone. (See the photo above) This would have held the grain or hay the animals would have eaten as well as holding the water they would have drunk. Now, think about this, here's the Lamb of God born in the stable, but he was lying in a food/drink trough. What did Jesus say he was? Bread of Life and Living Water. And what is bread made from? Grain. Jesus said we'd never go hungry or thirsty again in John 4. But, Revelation 7:14-17 says, "I answered, "Sir, you know."And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore,"they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
The "second" set of visitors were kings. What is Jesus coming back as the "second" time he appears to mankind? As the King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16:says, "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter."He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. " If this isn't another sign pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.
We see the picture of the Heavenly Hosts in the field greeting the shepherds with the glad tidings of great joy. Only a selected few had the opportunity of experiencing that. But the "second" time around the whole world will experience the glad tidings of great joy. The kind of joy where there will be no more tears. The Bible says that shepherds and kings bowed and worshiped the child lying in a manger. When Jesus appears to us for the second time, we will all have the opportunity to bow and worship him and this time he will take his rightful place on the throne in the temple. The very temple that as a Lamb of God he was sacrificed.
The book of Revelation has several references to stars. All of them being a symbol. The other morning, I believe the Lord gave me my own revelation to the Star of Bethlehem.
When God called Abraham, He promised him that his offspring would be as many as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). I'm sure, just like the Passover story is told each year at Passover, this was one of those family tree story's that was passed down from generation to generation. This was another sign for the Hebrew people to keep their eyes open for the Messiah. In Numbers 24:17 the scripture says, "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth." God used a star to direct the Magi to the baby (Matthew 2). I truly believe this was the sign to His people that their Messiah had come. Like every family, why after all this time would he show up now. Instead, it was the foreigners to went looking for him.
There is no doubt in my mind that all of these are signs pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. God is pretty creative and I would not put it passed the Creator of Life to have had some fun including these clues for us. Especially for those who are skeptical and have to have proof that Jesus is who God says he is. Watch for the signs. It won't be long before he makes his grand entrance for the second time, but this time, it won't be a select few who will see him. We all will get to see him come to earth this time. Revelation 22:20 says, "Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
During the month of December, many cities post banners on light posts that have the words written Love, Joy, and Peace. It seems that this one month out of twelve, it is time to lay all differences aside and include those three words into our lives.
There is such a focus on peace around the world, yet to see it in action is very rare. Rather than people actually living in peace with one another, they are tolerating one another. People will protest a cause with signs that scream "PEACE". This would seem like an oxymoron. The symbol used for peace is another thing that puzzles me. Years ago it was brought to my attention that it is a symbol of an upside down, broken cross. The thought behind it is if there wasn't religion then we'd have peace. It's interesting that the symbol for religion was the cross, not any other religions symbol. Yet, Jesus was sent by God with one of his titles being the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6). The peace sign should be the symbol of the cross!
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father, brothers all are we,
Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now,
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow,
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
"A diamond is a chunk of coal made good under pressure." - Anonymous
"Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are? Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky..." Do you recognize these familiar lyrics? It came to mind as I was reading Philippians 2:14 &15. It says, "Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." Several generations prior to Paul's letter to the Philippians, God had made a promise to Abraham that he would have as many children as the stars in the sky. (Genesis 15:5) Guess what? We've been included in that family of stars. We too, who have been adopted through Jesus, are now included in that family of stars. God desired so much to have a relationship with us, that all the way back then He was thinking of you. Just as the words of the nursery rhyme is sung, "We are like a diamond in the sky."
How are diamonds formed? (see diamond cutting video) A diamond starts out as a chunk of coal that is mined and brought to the jeweler. The jeweler takes that coal and begins chipping off the layers to reach the potential diamond. In that process, a piece of dull, unshaped glass-like form appears. The rough diamond is clamped in a dop and held against this whirly disc or a polishing wheel. The diamond dust is mixed with olive oil and is used on the wheel to grind away the diamond to the desired angle. The polishing wheel spins around and around cutting, scraping and shining up the diamond. This process polishes the diamond symmetrically on all the facets at angles to reflect the maximum amount of light. Eventually the outcome is a diamond that is clear and colorful. The more cut to the diamond the greater its value.
We too are similar to a diamond. God uses other people to help shape us. It is the cutting and grinding away of our rough edges and the polishing of encouragement that begins to help us see our potential. But it is the circular motion of the polishing wheel, which is similar to our circumstances that come around regularly, that also contributes to our value. 2 Corinthians 4:6-10 says it best. "For God, who said, "Let light shine out of the darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."
God knows and sees our potential. After all, He did create you. But Jesus is like the dop, standing in the gap and holding you in position while you are being cut, shaped and polished. The diamond dust represents our relationships that sometimes rub us the wrong way and yet this is what helps to allow the light to reflect. The Holy Spirit is like the olive oil that comforts us in those times and helps to make a new creation. It's the soothing of the olive oil that gives us the grace to endure that allows us to shine.
The hope is that we will become a transparent yet a brilliant and colorful diamond. We are to be a reflection of the glory of the one and only flawless diamond, Jesus. He is the treasure of Heaven. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, "And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." Who would have ever guessed such a treasure could be found in a piece of coal. God's ultimate purpose for us is to spend eternity with Him. Like the advertisement says, "A diamond is forever."
Thought: What circumstances are you facing right now that are bringing out your hidden potential? What areas of your life are being cut away and polished so you may reflect the glory of the Lord? What real-ationships is God using in your life to make you all that He created you to be?
Take a moment to think about these questions. If you are unsure, take this time to ask God the question, what are You doing in my life? Who and what are you using to bring out my hidden potential? And last but not least, am I a reflection of Jesus?
Whatever circumstances you may be facing right now that seem to be bringing you to the end of your rope, don't worry that is not the way God sees it. Just as Psalm 121:5 says God is watching over your life. He will bring comfort and hope to the most distressing circumstances. Take comfort knowing that His purpose in your life will be fulfilled. No matter what the pressure is that you are facing, it is adding another facet to your life. This process will bring beauty to your life, just as the many cuts to a diamond maximize its brilliance. You are God's treasure and His plan is for eternity, because diamonds are forever.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
This week we read 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 and the title of this chapter in my NIV Bible is "The Man of Lawlessness." Verses 1- 12 says, "Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. 2 Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. 3 Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. 4 He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
California is no stranger to fire. In the fall of 2007, it was a critical time in
One night in October, as I was doing up the last few dishes from dinner, I could see a red-orange glow outside my window. A few nights earlier, when the fire began, my son, and I sat in my upstairs window watching the tiny spark on the hillside grow into a raging fire. For days, the smoke hung over our heads like a canopy shading us from the sun. It was an eerie feeling. Although we were at least 20 miles or more from the location, the house was filled with the smell of smoke as though we had just built a bonfire on our patio. Every night I would watch the fire jump from hillside to hillside. During the day I could see the charred ground and the cloud of smoke it would leave in its wake.
I am describing all of this to you to draw a picture of how powerful our tongues can be. James 3:5 & 6 says, "Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." I watched, what looked like a tiny spark, ignite into a blaze. What an illustrated picture of what words can do. Not only does a fire damage everything in its path, but even those who are watching from afar, have to deal with the residue the ash leaves behind. There is stench of smoke that lingers in the air, even when the fire has passed. Much like damaging words that are spoken. They can destroy everything in their path and more often than not, observers can become victims by default.
Job 41 talks about the leviathan and how difficult he is to tame. 19 Firebrands stream from his mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. 20 Smoke pours from his nostrils as from a boiling pot over a fire of reeds. 21 His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from his mouth. That picture reminds me of the giant cobra on the Indiana Jones ride at
I truly don't think man understands the power of words. Think about this, God spoke the universe into existence. That is pretty powerful! Of course the enemy wants to use words to retaliate, so he uses people to speak against one another. James 3:9&10 says, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be." Satan is also known as the accuser. He tries to use us to accuse and speak words of harm to each other. Isaiah 54:17 says "no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD." We are included in this heritage. Imagine what would happen if we spoke praise and blessing not only to God, but with and to each other. I bet we'd see fire. Like the fire that rested on the heads of the disciples in Acts (Acts 2:3&4). What kind of blaze would that start? A blaze of Glory that could not be contained!
I pray that we would get the destructive fire from our mouths 100% contained. I pray that a blowing wind would spark the fire of the Holy Spirit in us. That it would set a blaze of Glory that would never be put out.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Several years ago, I saw an interview of a well-known music entertainer who had recently converted to an Eastern religion. He was wearing a red dot on his forehead. The interviewer asked him why he chose that particular religion. He responded by saying that all religions can be recognized by their outward appearance as a sign as to what they believe in and the reason he chose Hinduism was because when people see him, they know exactly what he believes. He went on to say that Christianity has nothing outwardly to define what it believes.
As we read this past week in our Epic reading guide, we do have signs that define who we are as followers of Jesus. In Mark 16, when Jesus told the disciples to go out into all the world and preach the good news to all creation, he said whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. With their salvation signs would accompany them. Those signs are driving out demons, speaking in new tongues, being able to pick up snakes with their hands, drinking deadly poison and not being hurt, and laying hands on the sick and seeing them healed, all by the power of Jesus name (Mark 16:15-18).
In Acts 1, Jesus specifically talks about one gift that the Father had promised to send. Acts 1:4-8 reads, "On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Power is a sign of a follower of Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit is truly the sign that separates us from the world and other religions. Luke 24:49 Jesus told them to stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. Reading this made me think that another sign as a follower of Jesus is patience, a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Jesus told them to stay in the city until (Luke 24:48) and wait for (Acts 1:4) the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit. It was probably like us as children at Christmas waiting with anticipation and excitement for Christmas morning to see what we might find under the tree. Remember the disciples did not know what to expect.
Receiving the gift of tongues is a sign that truly separates us from the world. The challenge with the gift of tongues is that it is also the one gift that divides the Body of Christ. Some choose not to believe that it is something we can have today, yet we will believe in healing and salvation. Some Believer's are afraid of it. Some are more likely to pick up snakes with their bare hands and drink poison than to be open to the gift of tongues. All one has to do is believe to receive and then wait. In Acts 2:1, the scripture says on the day of Pentecost they were all together, in one place. I believe the power of unity is a sign of a Believer. In Acts 2:2-4, it says a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house and what seemed to be tongues of fire rested on each of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. This reminded me of the time the Glory of God filled Solomon's temple after it was built. In 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 it says the musicians with one voice giving praise and thanks to the Lord singing, He is good, his love endures forever, that the temple was filled with a cloud and the priests could not perform because the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God. (I have heard that this cloud was from the burning of lamp stand and sacrifices in the temple because there was no ventilation. Man made that fire, but God made the fire in Acts.)
We live in a world that will only believe if there is a sign. God knew that we being of flesh nature, provided signs for us to believe in the Truth. I ask you today, are you clothed with power? Only those who "believe the things of the Spirit" can "receive the things of the Spirit." I will close with this last question, what's your sign?
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I started thinking about something I read the other day in my devotions. The last two verses in Luke 21. It says, "Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple." I thought about the Mount of Olives. When we read about the Mount of Olives, it sounds like this romantic grove of olive trees. At the foot of this hillside is where Gethseme is located. For some reason I have never connected the dots until now. I have stood at the top of that hill and looked down into Jerusalem. It is not a beautiful olive grove, instead the whole hillside today is covered with graves. Now I don't know if there were that many graves on the hillside in Jesus day, but it was still a cemetery. In fact, this is a special place for the Jewish people to be buried. So if you think about it, why would Jesus spend the night in or near a cemetery? This is also the location where he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He took the path next to the cemetery.
John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us life and life more abundant. He often refers to himself as the bread of life and the living water. Why would someone so confident of his purpose, sleep and walk among the dead? My thought is that he was using this as a metaphor to explain why he came. Maybe he was saying he was not afraid of death because he would overcome it. The scripture does not say anyone was with him when he spent the night on the hill.
What else is interesting having read the through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy is that the Israelites were not to touch a dead body or they would be defiled. Jesus was always creating a stir among the Pharisees. After all, he had brought a few who were dead back to life. I wonder if that could have been an issue for them as well. How can this man who claims to be the Messiah sleep where the dead sleep?
My last thought on this is, maybe Jesus was showing us in the natural what happens in the spiritual. That where he is, there is life. Maybe the cemetery represents us spiritually and it's only when he is there, that life happens. As I was just looking through the concordance, the Mount of Olives is only mentioned a few times in the Old Testament. But its only mentioned in the New Testament in reference to Jesus. Jesus actually spent a lot of time on the Mount of Olives. Did you know that Jesus never spent the night in Jerusalem, until the night he was crucified? The Mount of Olives is the location where Jesus will return. In Zechariah 14:4 it says that the Lord will stand with his feet on the Mount of Olives and it will split apart. Maybe Jesus spent time there so we would know where to look for him when he returns. That is how we will know the difference to those who claim to be the Messiah. If when they stand on it, it will split apart.
I've never known cemeteries to be places of holy ground, but I wonder if this cemetery could be considered holy ground because the One who brings life spent a lot of time there. On that day when the Messiah returns, the dead in Christ will rise (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Oh what a day it will be when Jesus comes back! I wonder what the spiritually dead will say then? Will they even be able to speak! Jesus is life and because he is, we can live beyond the grave!
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
This week in our "Epic" prayer and reading guide, we come across a very popular passage when Jesus taught on the topic of worry. The dictionary definition of worry is: to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts and to torment with cares, anxieties, etc.; trouble; plague. I find it interesting that the word torment is used to describe worry. The word plague makes me think of being called a worry wort. Isn't a wort a virus?
I wonder if Matthew and Luke were worriers and if that is why they both made it a point to write about this teaching of Jesus'. These two men were not fisherman either. Matthew was a tax collector and Luke was a physician. Matthew dealt with money and Luke dealt with health. Today they would be considered "white collar" professionals. Fisherman would be considered "blue collar" professionals and were probably used to living one day at a time. At least every time Jesus shows up while they are on the job, they aren't catching much or anything at all. Luke 12:22-34 says, "Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
In the spring of 2008, flour, rice, eggs and cooking oil were hit by the economic bomb. Milk was at an all time high and bread prices were close to $4 a loaf. At that time, oil prices were rising quickly, much like they are today. Just two weeks ago gas was under $3 and it is now up to $3.19 in some locations. The news reported then, that farmers were not producing enough grain to feed people and livestock because they needed the ethanol to produce gas to feed our cars. (Ethanol is made from corn and other crops. It is a renewable fuel.) The media reported then also that bulk club stores were limiting purchases on rice and flour. The way the media reports these stories puts fear in the hearts of many of us, including me. Psalms 37:25 says, "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread."
I remember watching a Christian news broadcast during that crisis and they reported that some people had quit attending Sunday church because they couldn't afford the gas in their cars. I'm sure these people drove to work and the grocery store. I wonder what God must be thinking of us. Didn't Jesus conclude his teaching on worry with where our treasure is there our hearts will be? Not going to church to save gas? Yet people will drive out of their way to find the lowest prices for food and gas. Proverbs 13:22b says, "... but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous." Proverbs 13:23 says, "A poor man's field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away." Doesn't it seem that the high demand for oil is injustice and the poor farmers who have been growing food for people are now having to grow food for our cars? But this last verse truly left me with hope that God is looking out after His children. Proverbs 13:25 says, "The righteous eat to their hearts' content, but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry."
I know it would seem silly of me to write about this, but being a mom with two children heading into the teen years, and one of them being a boy, it is a concern. But the Word of God gives me hope that everything is going to be o.k. So if you, like me, struggle with worry, in the words of Jesus, "Do not be afraid!" He has proven Himself faithful over and over. And He has nothing to prove to us. He is God and everything in the earth belongs to Him and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10) Rather than worrying about rising costs, we should instead allow our faith to rise. We followers of Jesus shouldn't worry about inflation, we should match it with "in-faith-tion." Imagine what our world would be like if our faith rose to an all time high! It would be priceless! Do not fear, in-faith-tion is here!
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
It seems that bread is a common part of every meal. In today's diet fads, bread is the first thing to go. The problem for me is, I love my bread! I was always thankful that on the food pyramid it ranked on the bottom which meant, more bread was good.
This week as we read in the book of John, Jesus was talking about bread. John 6:27-33, 35, 47-58 says, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. 28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?'29 Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.' 32 Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'
35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'
47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."
Jesus clearly states that he is the bread from Heaven. It sounds a bit cannibalistic to be talking about eating flesh and drinking blood. This could be a problem for some people who don't know Jesus. Jesus is talking spiritually speaking.
It would seem that today in our Christian culture that we are on a spiritual Atkins diet. What's interesting is that doctors are finding the Atkins diet to be unhealthy for the heart because people binge on bacon and red meat. If we start cutting Jesus out of our daily life, we become heart disease victims. What I mean by that is that we stop focusing on forgiveness through Jesus and our spiritual arteries become clogged with the plaque of anger, bitterness, and most of all, unforgiveness. Jesus was very direct when he said he was the bread of life. He did not use a parable to explain this. He just came out and said it, twice!
In Jesus prayer that he was teaching his disciples to pray, he says "give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (paraphrased from Matthew 6:12) . I find it very interesting that daily bread and sin, temptation and evil fall in line behind the request for daily bread. That is ultimately what Jesus came to do. To be the bread of life that absorbs the sin and death that we deserve. I guess the question for today is, have you had your bread today? Don't deny yourself the bread of life. Instead, say "Pass the bread!"
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Hurricane Hugo, hurricane Andrew, and one of the most unforgettable storms, hurricane Katrina are some of the most devastating storms in recent history. I bring up these storms to describe the passage in Mark 4 verses 35-41 when Jesus calmed the storm. It reads, "That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" 41They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" I've experienced a Galilee squall. It's amazing how strong the wind gets. I stood looking out of our hotel room window during one of these winds and many of the mosaic tiles on the side of our balcony were missing. Probably from the frequent wind storms they get. The geographic location of the Sea of Galilee is in a valley between to hillsides. It is the perfect setting for the wind to whip through.
Now the disciples were experienced fishermen and it's likely they had experienced these before. Maybe this squall was stronger because God wanted to expose the fear in these men and to help them realize who they had been with was truly the Son of God. The men woke Jesus up, and asked him if he even cared that they were going to drown. Jesus must have been so tired from speaking all day that he didn't notice the boat rocking or it actually kept him asleep. The disciples didn't know what to think except they were going to die.
Aren't the circumstances of our lives similar to the weather? We can be cruising along on the smooth waters of life, then suddenly the wind begins to blow, the waves begin to swell and before you know it, the clouds have gathered overhead. Some of us, like the disciples start screaming, "Batten down the hatches!" when life gets stormy. It's easy to live by faith when the waters are smooth. The only way we are going to strengthen our faith is for God to stir up the weather so we can truly see His power that can preserve us in times of trouble.
I think in a spiritual sense crossing over to the other side is important in this passage. What made this storm any different? Fishing was usually done in the early morning hours when it is dark, so I don't think it was because it was dark. There was something intentional that God wanted them to know. These men had seen Jesus heal the sick and cast out demons, but they needed to experience the power that Jesus had for themselves. They needed to cross over from the "shore of fear to the other side of faith." This passage even mentions there were other boats out there with them. I think that is reminder to us that we are not alone in these storms. Others are sharing our experience too and they are watching us, as Jesus disciples, and how we get through it.
Maybe right now, you have experienced the loss of a home, a car, retirement, savings, a business, and even employment. The list goes on. You might even feel like Jesus is not concerned with your storm or maybe he's sleeping through it. But I want to encourage you that Jesus knows. Maybe you are wondering why He would allow you to have to go through this storm. Like Jesus telling the disciples to go over to the other side, maybe the Lord is telling you it's time to "go over to the other side." The other side being, no longer do I live by my own understanding, but to trust in Him completely, even if it doesn't make sense. God doesn't have to make sense to us, He can do the impossible. He loves us so much. If you are spending time with him, like the disciples did, then the question He asks is "Why are you so afraid?"
I don't know what your circumstance is right now. I have this illustration the Lord gave me about circumstance. The word circum means to go around and the word stance means a position while standing. When the squalls of life are spinning around you, Ephesians 6:14 says to stand firm! They say people, who are drowning, drown because they are panicking. When I think of the movie Titanic the people who panicked lost their lives. The ones who went directly to the life boats were saved. So while you are standing firm, waiting for the storm to pass, hold on to your life preserver, which is the Word of God. Psalm 119:50 says, "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life." In the storms of life, God's promises are our life preservers. If you are in that place today you may not have time to "batten down the hatches." Instead go get your "life preserver" that is sitting on the shelf, coffee table, in that box that is out in the garage or in the trunk of your car. It will preserve your life and keep you drowning. (Photo above is a replica of the boat that Jesus would have been on)
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Nehemiah was constantly being attacked by his enemies with words of doubt. Nehemiah's enemies had all plotted to fight against them and stir up trouble. Then the people of Judah became discouraged and began to doubt that they could rebuild the wall. They were afraid of being attacked. In verse 9, Nehemiah prayed to God and posted guards day and night to meet this threat. He stationed people everywhere with swords, spears and bows to protect every person and family. Nehemiah trusted that God would fight for each person. In verses 15-18 says, "When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work. 16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me." Verse 23 says "Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water."
When I read the words "sword and weapon", I immediately thought of the Spiritual armor. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:17) Even the word "sword" has the word "word" in it as a reminder. I suppose we should call it the sWord of the Spirit. If we can get the Word of God into our hearts so that, like those men, we have it by our side at all times. Ready to be spoken at the moment of a surprise attack!
In chapter 6 verse 2 it says that Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab were scheming to harm Nehemiah. Ephesians 6:11 tells us to take our stand against the Devil's schemes. One of the dictionary definitions is "an underhand plot." That is what these men were trying to do to discourage Nehemiah from completing the task he'd been given. Our enemy, the Devil is always scheming against us.
Nehemiah didn't fall prey to those "lions" who were trying to devour him. Instead he replied to them in verses 8 & 9 by saying "Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head." They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, 'Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.' " Instead Nehemiah spoke back by praying "Now strengthen my hands." He didn't ask God to make them go away, or to kill them, he asked God for strength.
I wonder how our circumstances would turn out if we asked God to give us strength instead of making it go away. I'm guilty of praying that. Our human nature doesn't like to suffer or deal with difficult things so we usually pray, God heal me, provide for me, or make that difficult person go away. I wonder what would happen if we prayed, "Father give me strength to endure this sickness, give me wisdom in this financial bind or show me how to lead that difficult person to You."
At the end of chapter 6, the wall is finally completed. It took them fifty-two days to get the job done. Nehemiah realized that his enemies had even sent prophets to discourage him. Sometimes our own brothers and sisters in the Lord are used by the enemy to attack us. That is why it is important to know what God is saying to you personally.
On the other hand, notice that Nehemiah split the people in half. Half of them were workers and the other half were warriors. Some to do the job and the others to keep watch. We who are followers of Jesus need to watch out for each other. If we are armed with the Word then when our brothers and sisters in Christ become discouraged, we can help them press through and vice versa. In the end the job was done and I'm sure Nehemiah was relieved yet even more confident in God's Word. Verse 16 says, "When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God."
Ask yourself these questions. How is Satan discouraging you from the promises of God? Do you recognize his schemes yet? How are you fighting back? Are you fighting out of fear or faith? Lastly, are you possibly being used like those prophets to speak discouragement to other brothers and sisters in the Lord? Or are you one who is on "watch"? The Bible is clear about building one another up. I would take some time to write down some areas that you believe the enemy is scheming against you and thwart his effort. Conquering the battle is exposing the enemy's plan. God's plan is for us to be victorious. All we have to do is say, "God give me strength to endure" and He will!
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Today's devotional is coming from my "Narrated Chronological Bible." If you are following along in the chronological prayer and reading guide, this past week we've been reading Zechariah, Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah. All of these books including the passage I am going to share today from Daniel, were all going on about the same time.
The devotions for today are from the book of Daniel, chapter 6. It is a familiar story of which most of us grew up hearing, Daniel and the lions den. As I was reading today, the Holy Spirit put a new twist on it for me. I believe that is why the Bible is a life giving book. You can always find something new in it.
The story begins with some coworkers who do not like Daniel. Daniel is now well into his life and probably close to retirement. The current king over Babylon is Darius the Mede, who only reigned for a few years himself. Darius was fond of Daniel. Daniel had a high position in the government and had exceptional qualities, so much so that Darius wanted Daniel to oversee all of the satraps and administrators. Obviously these men were jealous of Daniel's favor and decided to come up with a plan to do him in. Much like Haman did with Mordecai and all the Jews in the book of Esther. The satraps and administrators went to King Darius with this plan to enforce a decree that anyone who prays to any god or man instead of King Darius would be thrown into the lions den. They knew how committed Daniel was to his God so they thought this was a sure way to get rid of him. Of course King Darius agreed with them, not realizing he was putting his favorite man in jeopardy.
Daniel in his humility and obedience did not submit to the decree and sure enough, the satraps and administrators plans succeeded. Immediately they ran to King Darius to tell him that Daniel did not obey the decree so he had to be thrown in to the den with the lions. King Darius was troubled by this, but nonetheless, had to follow through on the punishment.
Daniel 6:16-19 reads, "So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.”
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night.
19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” (NLT)
Daniel replied in verse 22 & 23, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God." (NLT)
Everything the satraps and administrators had planned now backfired. Not only was Daniel still alive, but it was proof that the God Daniel served was the living God. Instead, King Darius ordered them to be thrown into the lions den. Not only were the accusers punished, but their wives and children as well.
As I read this, I thought about how Daniel must have been feeling sitting in that pitch black cave. Unable to see anything, especially unable to see his predator. Daniel had spent his whole life living in humility and prayer that God protected him against the instinct of the animal that He had created.
The twist that I found this time in reading the story was not about the ferocious lions, but instead the ferocious men that came against Daniel. The men were more lion-like than even the lions. Their whole focus was to devour Daniel.
This brought me to this thought that I want to share with you today. Unlike Daniel, we may not have experienced the physical act of being in a dark cave with a pack of lions. But there are many times in our lives, we step out into a dark world where, in this case Satan is like Daniel's accusers and men are like the lions whose whole goal is to devour you.
This brought to mind 1 Peter 5, which I believe should be included with this chapter of Daniel. It says, "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sistersb]"> all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are." (1 Peter 5:6-9, NLT)What is important about this passage is that the "lower" we put ourselves, the "higher" God lifts us up out of the pit. It doesn't tell us to live ignorant or oblivious to the "lions" around us, but in verse 8 it says "stay alert" with an exclamation point for emphasis. We need to be on "watch" all the time. Even when it's pitch black and you can't see a thing, let your eyes of faith be your infrared light.
Daniel was a man who lived his life in complete obedience to the Lord. Thinking back on that night that Daniel spent in the den with the lions, I wonder if Daniel was so confident that his God would protect him from those lions that he was in there saying, "Here kitty, kitty." Instead, maybe the lions were afraid of him. Let God deal with the accuser and you say to those lions, "here kitty, kitty, my God will rescue me."