Wednesday, November 24, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - A Diamond is Forever

"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

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Lawlessness & Disorder

In recent years, our elections have been very interesting. Some of the propositions we have had on our ballots would have never been considered as early as10 years ago. The television ads that seem to run endlessly during the weeks prior to an election can be a bit confusing. Most of the time I believe the proposition ads talk in circles as to confuse the voter. As followers of Jesus, we shouldn't base our decisions necessarily on moral issues, but on the Kingdom of God principles. What does God's Word say about the things man's law is trying to pass. It would seem that it is "lawfulness" against "lawlessness" and "order" against "disorder."

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. 

5 Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? 6 And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. 7 For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. 8 Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.

9 This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. 10 He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. 11 So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. 12 Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth."

Verse 12 hits the nail on the head, so to speak. Mankind today would rather enjoy evil living rather than believing the truth. The most controversial propositions are not about freedom as much as they are selfish and considered "rebellion" in the eyes of God. Rebellion is the same as witchcraft so these issues are definitely "lawlessness." They are all about instant gratification. We talk about the future of our country, yet we really don't think about the side effects it will have on people in future of our country. 

It is so disheartening to see our country so divided right now. We are in the midst of a political civil war. Laws are given to promote order and safety. There is still a small majority who vote for lawfulness and order. But the more we promote rebellion that majority is losing voters with every election. It is like some underworld movie Arnold Swartzenegger or Sylvester Stallone would play in. It is a world full of bitter, angry, hateful, and murderous citizens.

In the Book of Lamentations Jeremiah is mourning the destruction of Jerusalem from Babylon. It says "Jerusalem has sinned greatly, so she has been tossed away like a filthy rag. All who once honored her now despise her, for they have seen her stripped naked and humiliated. All she can do is groan and hide her face. 9 She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out. “Lord, see my misery,” she cries. “The enemy has triumphed.”10 The enemy has plundered her completely, taking every precious thing she owns. She has seen foreigners violate her sacred Temple, the place the Lord had forbidden them to enter. 11 Her people groan as they search for bread. They have sold their treasures for food to stay alive. “O Lord, look,” she mourns, “and see how I am despised." (Lamentations 1:8-11, NLT) This passage of scripture is so fitting for the current condition as a country.

Having the right to choose is what makes the United States of America great. But when the majority of the people are choosing out of a rebellious heart, it can be a dangerous place. It is said that history repeats itself and this isn't the first time a country has been teetering on the side of destruction. The disturbing part about all of this is that it is all done in the name of peace. Unfortunately, the heart of rebellion is not peace. It is wickedness which is the cause of lawlessness and disorder. It is a counterfeit peace that is truly the spirit of anti-Christ. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." That is why He sent His son Jesus to the earth. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Only His peace can bring law and order.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Blaze of Glory

California is no stranger to fire. In the fall of 2007, it was a critical time in Southern California. The state was literally on fire. There were fires in Northern California as well as Southern California. The smell of smoke was intense. Many of us were glued to the news for several days.

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 Disneyland. Often the tongue of man is even more difficult to tame than the leviathan.

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

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - What's Your Sign?

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?