Wednesday, January 27, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women's Devotional - All My Children

Genesis is a book of snapshots of a family tree. A family that God chose. Love, romance, wealth, travel, kings, beautiful women, arranged marriages, infertility, shame, blame, murder, sibling rivalry (and lots of it), drunkenness, betrayal, deceit, fornication, incest, jealousy, and so on describe the people God chose to call His people in the book of Genesis. It sounds like the content you would find in a daytime drama. May I suggest this book could be subtitled All My Children? The book of Genesis seems to be the story of a very dysfunctional family line. Yet, God chose these people to be the family that his own son would be linked to. It wasn't God's intent for some of the choices Abraham's family made, but God did use it for His good. We can see by their example of living how important it is to live walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

As I read Genesis, it occurred to me that this book with all of it's drama was written with generations past and present in mind. God knew that even in the 21st century, we would still be struggling with these same issues. The fall of man begins as early as the third chapter. The book of Genesis is really an encouragement to us to know that no matter what kind of earthly family we come from, His ultimate plan is for us to be identified as children of God. Ephesians 1:4-7 says "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Think about that, it truly does not matter what kind of heritage you have come from, the bottom line is that God loved us so much that He wanted us to be apart of His family. For that reason, He sent Jesus, His one and only Son to become flesh and blood, so we could share this life and our eternal life together. (John 3:16)

We have all come from different families. Some might say their family is very dysfunctional and others might say they are very functional. Whatever kind family you have come from, know this, if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you have a new family tree. One filled with honor and glory. You are now royalty and have a great inheritance. Paul says in Galatians 3:29, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Personally, I think the book of Genesis was really written for us to know that no matter where we come from, that God can use anyone to accomplish His plan. I do have to give Abraham's family the benefit of the doubt, they did not yet have the law to live by. To sum it all up, the book of Genesis is a reminder that way back in the beginning, man needed a Savior. I say all of this because even as followers of Jesus, we can get so caught up in our own drama that we forget that we are no longer to live by our flesh, will, and emotions, but are to live by the Spirit. Galatians 5 says it all. Jesus came to set us free, let us live that way because we are all His children.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women's Devotional - A Stormy Forecast

Out of the five day forecast, today was supposed to be the least amount of rain, according to the weatherman. Around 10:00 am, I decided it was as good a time as any to run my usual errands. The clouds began to roll in and with every passing hour, it began to get darker. Looking at the dark clouds overhead, I decided it was time to head home. I no sooner walked in the door and the drops began to fall.

I turned on the television and the Emergency Alert System flashed across my screen with a tornado warning. California is not known to have tornadoes. I listened to the weatherman, as the programming had been interuppted for the special announcement. Suddenly the winds kicked up and the rain came down hard. Next thing I know my patio was a disaster area. One of my potted trees had fallen over and dirt and mud was everywhere. I went outside to stand it back up. Moments later another one of my plants fell over and again dirt. As I was picking up the second plant, I noticed the soil at the roots was very dry. I thought about watering it the other day, but I didn't knowing we were going to get some rain.

The rain came down hard and the wind blew intently. Thunder and lightning soon joined this weather symphany. When I lived in Tennessee, I used to count the seconds between the lighting and thunder so I could tell how quick the storm was passing through. It lasted about an hour and soon the sun peered through the clouds.

Outside my front door, another tree had fallen into the walk way and had broken at the bottom of the trunk. I had to pick my kids up from school at that time and as I drove into the parking lot, I saw another tree that had not been able to weather the storm. It seemed as though now my eyes had been open to fallen trees. As I turned down a street near my home, an incredibly large pine tree had fallen bringing up the roots and dirt. It blocked a whole street. Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me using these trees to talk to me about the importance of getting into the Word and spending time with the Lord.

Ladies, as we step out in this season to read through the Bible, it is going to become an anchor that will sustain you in the times of the storms. You see the plant on my patio didn't have any water underneath the topsoil to weight it down when the wind came. Allow Jesus, the Living Water, to fill you up so you will never be so dry that you can't stand through a storm. (John 4:14) Do not depend on others to fill you up. You've got to do it yourself. Two of the trees that I saw were young trees and they were planted in the ground. They were not strong enough to stand up to the wind. But the large pine tree looked as though it should have had roots deep enough to keep it from falling over. Sometimes, we who have followed Jesus for a long period of time, look like we can handle it, but somewhere we stopped going deeper in our relationship with him, and often find ourselves unable to withstand the winds of life that blow our way.

Proverbs 10:25 says, "When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever." Proverbs 10:30 says, "The righteous will never be uprooted..." I want to encourage you today, to make sure you water yourself daily with Word of God. Continue to pursue the Lord that your roots may grow down into the soil of God's love and keep you strong! (Ephesians 3:17 NLT) Psalms 92:12 & 13 promises "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God." We are His orchard.

The five day forecast calls for two more storms to pass through our region. Life's forecast may have a few storms headed your way, but know this, the Son is still shining on the other side of those clouds and He will breakthrough.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Don't Look Back!

One of my favorite things to do is to look at family photo albums. Recently I found myself watching videos of my kids when they were little. A blonde brown-eyed 4 year old boy dressed in his Buzz Lightyear jammies with a Bibleman cape and mask, running around fighting evil with his light saber and a toe-head, brown-eyed 2 year old girl, dressed in every piece of dress up clothing she owned, singing in front of the mirror. Looking back, those days seemed to be more simple, yet it was probably during one of the most challenging seasons of our life. We had just moved back to California to plant a church, we were living by faith financially and we were in the early stages of raising our children.
Reading the story of Lot and his family leaving Sodom and Gomorrah reminded me of the importance of why we should not look back. In Genesis 19, God is angry with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The night that He was ready to destroy everything in those cities, he sent two angels to rescue Lot and his family. Think about how they must have felt when they are told to leave immediately.

Let's look at Lot's wife. Not much is mentioned about her. She doesn't even have a name. It's not recorded in scripture whether or not her homeland was either of those cities. What was she thinking when she is suddenly faced with a move? And a big one at that, they aren't sure where they are going to go, except to the mountains. Genesis 19:15-17 says "With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished." 16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" I'm sure Lot's wife was pretty angry and afraid at this sudden relocation. I wonder if that is why they were told to flee to the mountains so that they had a destination to focus on. Think about it, the mountains are unlevel ground and you have pay attention to what is in front of you rather than behind you.

Like any husband who see's his wife's grief and senses her wrath, he makes a compromise with the two angels. Genesis 19:18-21 says, "But Lot said to them, "No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can't flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I'll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn't it? Then my life will be spared." 21 He said to him, "Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it." (That is why the town was called Zoar. )" If Lot had been obedient to the first command, he may have still had a wife.

The passage goes on to say, " 23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." (Genesis 19:23-26) Why did she turn into a pillar of salt? As I read this, I wondered if she was a bitter woman. Have you ever over salted your food? As much taste as a little salt adds, it can also ruin a dish that has too much salt. I wonder what was going through her mind as she looked back. Was she filled with anger and resentment. Could she have been angry at the evil that had not only been going on daily, but even the fact of the events of that night with her husband offering her daughters to the men to be raped. Was she torn that she had to leave possibly the only place she'd ever known. Maybe she was mad at God that He didn't spare every family member. There are dozens of reasons as what Lot's wife was recalling in her mind as she looked back. Nonetheless, she disobeyed the command of the angels and therefore turned into a pillar of salt. She died literally a bitter woman.

Philippians 3:13 & 14 says, "Brothers (sisters) I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." I believe Lot's wife's story is a visual of why Paul tells us to press on. Don't stop in the town of Zoar when God has told you to go to the mountains. Do get stuck dwelling on the past, the things that truly are behind you now. Jesus is our focal point and we need to keep looking to him. Proverbs 4:25 says, "Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.". So often I hear the phrase, "your best days are in front of you." Even if you had a life that was good, Ecclesiastes 7:10 tells us not to long for the good ole' days. 

Personally, I must confess that I "retain a little water on some days, due to the fact there is too much salt in my system," meaning I sometimes look back. As much as I don't want to, or don't want to admit, I do. So many unanswered questions that may never have answers. Why do I continue to live turned around when clearly the Lord is telling me not to look back but to move forward. To go to the mountains and not stop in Zoar. When our spiritual life has taken in too much salt we can get stuck in the plains of life. Hmm, when we are in the plain days of life we think by adding salt we flavor it up. Instead, we end up over salting and can become bitter.

It reminds me of the worship song "Moving Forward." The chorus says this, "I'm not going back. I'm moving ahead. I'm here to declare, in You old things are made new. Surrender my life to Christ. I'm moving moving forward." I want to challenge us today to help keep each other accountable in this area of being too "salty." As sisters in the Lord, I pray that we will be like those angels of the Lord to each other and take each other by the hand and lead us to the "mountain" where the Lord wants to meet us. Just like He met Moses on the mountain top. So we may experience His glory not turn into a pillar of salt.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional- A Healthy Start

This past week as I have been watching Joyce Meyer and Beth Moore, they have been talking about beginning the year in balance. Balance by making sure their spiritual lives as well as physical lives are in equal balance. Both of these women begin with daily devotions and follow up with exercise. I like what Beth said about her morning routine, she concludes her devotions and exercise by bundling it all up with thanking the Lord for a healthy mind and body.

Joyce really got me thinking about something these past few days. She said one day the Holy Spirit brought her attention that she dwelt too much on her past and all the time the enemy had stolen from her childhood and all the regrets. She said the Holy Spirit told her that she needed to let go of that and realize that now her days are less ahead of her than what is behind her. That she didn't need to waste one more day on the past, but to enjoy each day. How often we waste a day or two or even weeks and months living depressed about what is behind us?

This week on a secular program I was watching, the doctor was commenting that most of his patients could actually be cured of most of their ailments if they would let go of unforgiveness. That most of the illnesses that he was dealing with had to do with the patient needing to release unforgiveness and by doing that naturally the patient would begin eating better because they would no longer turn to comfort food. Then if they would start an exercise routine they would lose weight and have more energy and less stress.

Today, the Lord reminded me of Psalm 119:32. It says, "I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." The key word here being run, running not only in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense. Being in pursuit of obedience in every area of our lives. Doing so will set our heart's free of the unhealthy stress.

I like to say that prayer is like strength training. Prayer gives us the strength to make it through the day. Much like lifting weights makes us stronger. Did you know that as we age, it is even more important to lift weights to keep your muscles strong. So many believer's live in spiritual atrophe because they don't pray enough. We are to pray continually. (1 Thess. 5:17)

Then a time of worship. Beth says she listens to worship music or upbeat Christian music during her cardio workout. I too listen to upbeat worship and Christian music while I'm on the treadmill or walking in my neighborhood. As we all know cardio activity strengthens our heart. Worship too strengthens our spiritual heart. It ties us into God's heart and this too helps us throughout the day. Too many Believer's have spiritual heart attacks because their hearts don't get enough worship exercise.

Lastly, healthy meals. A healthy meal of God's Word will keep you full the whole day. It will supply you with spiritual nutrients when you need them most. Don't be an anorexic Christian. I think sometimes Christians can be bolemic too. That would be what James 1:22 says about hearing the word, but not doing it.

I hope this year, we might look at Jesus as our personal trainer. That he wants to come along side of us and bring persepective, encouragement and balance into our lives. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." We need a balance of spiritual fitness and physical fitness to accomplish all that God has prepared for us in our individual lives. Just like when Joyce Meyer realized she had less years ahead of her and chose to live from this time forward without regret and unforgiveness, to get her physical body healthy and her spiritual life strong. I pray whether you are in the first quarter of your life or the last quarter of your life, that all your days would be blessed. Moses concluded his life with these words to the children of Israel, "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess." (Deuteronomy 32:46 & 47) Here's to a new year and a new life.