Friday, May 27, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - The House That Wisdom Builds

Growing up in church, we used to sing, "The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock." If you are familiar with this song, you will know there were some hand motions that went along with it. As children, our favorite part was the hand motions for the foolish man because his house went splat. (Song is based on Matthew 7:24-27)

Last weekend at our women's retreat, we focused on truly what a Proverbs woman is. It doesn't matter whether you are single or married, live alone, with roommates, with family members and so on, you still have a home to build. Proverbs 14:1 says, "A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands." The Lord gave me a picture of the home of a wise woman and the home of a foolish woman.

Before any construction can begin, there are some important people needed. First an architect, second a contractor and a blue print. Lastly an inspector. The Lord showed me that God is our architect, Jesus is our contractor, the blue print is the Bible and the inspector is the Holy Spirit. God already has your design in mind. His Word gives us direction. Jesus is the contractor because of his death and resurrection he made building a wise home possible. The Holy Spirit on the other hand is the one who helps us keep in check as to whether we are living to God's standard.

Like the foolish man in the song, who builds his house on the sand which is unstable, so is the foolish woman's home. The foolish woman's foundation is built on fear. A few years ago, I began listening to how often I and other ladies would use "I'm afraid, I'm worried, or I'm scared" in their conversation. I was shocked at how often we say it without thinking twice. I'm as guilty as anyone. Fear also means reverence. When we live in fear, we worship our circumstances instead of God.

This brought me to the thought of what kind of walls a foolish woman's home has. The are walls of anxiety or worry, control (of everything around her), anger and complaining. When a home is built on fear it compromises everything else that is built on it. Romans 8:15 says "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but your received the spirit of Sonship." When we accept Jesus as our "contractor" we are no longer slaves to the fears of this world. What I mean is in bondage by the chains that we are bound to. Maybe similar to someone who is under house arrest.

The home of a wise woman, is the complete opposite of the foolish. Her home is built on a solid foundation, the rock of faith. A foundation built on faith can withstand any storm. Psalm 111:10 says, "Fear (or reverence) of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom." (NLT) A wise woman is one who is confident because she knows her "architect" has the best plans in mind. She has a relationship with her "contractor." She's willing to submit to her "inspector" and daily goes over the blueprint to make sure she is sticking with the plan. The walls of a wise woman's home are peaceful instead of anxious, self-controlled instead of in-control, joyful instead of angry, and thankful instead of a complainer. A home built with these four walls can stand up in any kind of circumstance.

What if half of your home is built with wisdom and there are times it is built on foolishness? James 1:8 says "a double-minded person is unstable in all they do." This reminds me of the show on HGTV called "Holmes on Homes." Mike Holmes is a contractor who comes in and finds all of the mistakes that neglectful contractors have made on home improvements or repairs. He comes in and tears everything out and starts over. Who does that sound like? Jesus! Even if you have found yourself in a home that has been compromised by fear, the good news is that Jesus will come in and make all the repairs and make you like new. Not only does he make the repairs, but he already paid for the labor and materials at the cross.

I pray today that if you are finding yourself in a home that needs some improvement, go to your Architect, Contractor and Inspector and ask them to make your "home" one of faith. Read your "blueprint" and get the Great Architect's plan down inside of you as you lay a new foundation. A house built on wisdom will withstand any storm.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - The Wonder Years

ln the Iate 80's there was a television show called "The Wonder Years" starring Fred Savage. It was about a preteen boy and what he thought about and experienced during his teen years. I thought that would be a good title for today's devotional from Luke 2. I wonder what Jesus was like at 12? I remember when my son was 12. Where he was emotionally and in his maturity was not even what I imagine Jesus to be at 12.

The story of Jesus at the temple when he was 12 years old is found in Luke 2:41-52. It reads like this:
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. 43 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, 44 because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
45 When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. 46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. (Above photo is from the Model City in Jerusalem of the Temple during the second Temple period. What it would have looked like when Jesus was there).
48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they didn’t understand what he meant.
51 Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.
52 Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. (NLT)
I can't even imagine what Mary and Joseph must have felt. The sick feeling of losing him, the guilt they must have felt as parents, not double checking that he was with them, let alone that they didn't even realize he was missing.

I wonder what kind of boy Jesus must have been. He must have been quiet mannered, probably an observer, a gentle spirit, but very confident, intelligent
and obviously mature. I wonder what Mary must have been thinking when she realized he was not with them? That feeling is not a good one. When my son was 12 years old, he would have never done that because he barely lets me go outside of the house without fearing that I've left him alone. He's my homing pigeon. The scripture says it took them 3 days to find him. Probably because the last place they would have expected to find him was in the temple courts with the religious teachers. I'm sure the the average boy may have been playing ball with the neighborhood kids or whatever boys did in those days. The scripture says his parents didn't know what to think or as the NIV translates, they were astonished (Luke 2:48).

As any parent, even though they may have been angry, but probably a bit proud to find their son interacting with these men. Its says that Jesus was listening and asking questions. I wonder what kind of questions he was asking. I do wish the scripture had mentioned that. I wonder if the religious teachers were wondering what a 12 year old boy was doing hanging around them. But I think the key action here that Jesus did, was listen.

When they finally found him, his mother asked him why he did that to them? Jesus responded, "Why did you have to search? Didn't you know I'd be in my Father's house?" It said they didn't understand. Had Joseph and Mary taken so much of the parenting role in Jesus' life that they had forgotten whose son he was? Did they forget that God was ordering every step of Jesus' life? That Jesus was God in the flesh? I also find it interesting that it was three days. Having been to the Old City, it would not have taken three days to find him. If you've been to the Old City you would know that it would not have taken three days. Interesting that it was three days from Jesus' death and resurrection. On the third day he arose and was found by his "family." Jesus at 12 missing for three days was a snapshot of what was to come.

I wonder when they found Jesus at the temple, if his countenance was different after having been in his Father's house? Did they not recognize him?
Maybe they actually passed him up a few times not expecting to find him there. Much like the women in the garden that morning of his resurrection or the men on the road to Emmaus after Jesus had been with his Father in His Heavenly home.

The scripture does not mention anymore about Jesus' teen years or young adult life. Unlike Moses, David and other heroes of the faith, who have biographies of their youth, there is no information on Jesus as a young man other than what the end of this passage says. It says that he grew in wisdom, stature and favor with God and people (Luke 2:52).

Let me ask this question? Would you know the difference if Jesus was missing in your own life for a few days? Do you find yourself anxious? Do you find yourself scattered? Do you find yourself searching for something? Maybe you are not convinced that Jesus makes that much of a difference in your life. I sure can tell when I haven't spent time with him. I am anxious, scattered and lost. I don't know if Mary truly understood the 12 year old that she was raising. The scripture says that Mary stored these things in her heart (Luke 2:51). She was his mother. We are the ones who manage to get lost. The truth is Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). You never have to wonder about that.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt....

In the late 70's the contemporary Christian music took off. I was a big fan. I am so thankful that I had the influence of Christian music during my teen years. Some of my favorite artists then were Benny Hester, Amy Grant, Kelly Willard, Roby Duke, The Archers and 2nd Chapter of Acts to name a few. But there was another up and coming singer that had a song that to this day that often comes to mind when I read the story of the Moses and the children of Israel. The singer is Keith Green and the song is "So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt..." Every time I begin the book of Numbers that song plays in my head. Going back to Egypt was big for the children of Israel.

It seems like every time things didn't seem to go the way they had planned or wanted, they began to complain and the first thing out of their mouths was "Why did you take us out of Egypt? Did you bring us into the desert with no food and water so we could die?" You know that old saying, "misery loves company" was a motto for them, I believe. They cried about being slaves in Egypt then God answered their cry and the next thing they know they're free. Then they complained about being free.

As I'm reading through these scriptures, my first reaction is to respond with "can't you be grateful? God answered your prayers by getting you out of Egypt." Then I realize, I'm no different! It is actually too familiar. I too am guilty of crying out to God for freedom in areas of my life and when I get them, I find something else to complain about.

What is really interesting to me is after Moses sends 12 men to spy out the promised land. Ten of the twelve came back with a negative perspective. Numbers 13:31- 33 says "
But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” God had already told them that was where He was taking them, but the fear of the people canceled out the promise of God. This was insulting to God that they would believe that man had more authority and power than the One who divided the Red Sea.

Numbers 14:1-9 says, "That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

Those ten guys spoke so negative about the place God had promised to give them that it literally spread like a disease throughout the camp and God was angry. Numbers 14:10-12 says, "But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” God was so angered by these ten men and the negativity they spread throughout the camp, that God decided to cut them off from their inheritance. He told them that no one from that generation could enter the Promised Land, except Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 14:29 &30). Wow, I bet that was a shock for those people. Now they will spend forty years wandering around in the desert and will never get to see, let alone live in the Promised Land.

What a wake up call for me! What kind of negative words have I spread throughout my circle of friends and family? Have I caused some to be cut off from God? God has given us His Word so that we can learn from it. They did not get to see the promise of God fulfilled because of their attitudes and disobedience. God was angry because they refused to remember and recognize the miracles He had been doing everyday since they left Egypt.

God has done more miraculous things in my life than I could ever count. The biggest miracle was sending His Son to deliver us from eternal death. Because of what Jesus did for mankind at Calvary, and because I believe and he is my savior, I will get to enter my eternal Promised Land. Yet I still complain. It is not about me. Its about others in my life. Have I said something that might cause someone else to doubt? I hope not, but that is the problem with words, once they are out there, you can't take them back.
Personally, I want to be much more responsible for the words that I speak. I think if the Church were a bit more responsible for our attitudes and what comes out of our mouths, we'd see more people come to Jesus, more healing miracles and more power, in Body of Christ.

I admit, I've wished for the "good ole' days" and wishing things could be like they used to be. Instead, I should remember God's faithfulness in those days and be thankful for today, even though it may seem difficult. Jesus said the last days would be like a woman in labor. The birth pains are getting closer together. We are much closer to the "eternal promised land" than we think. I don't want to complain anymore. I want to change my attitude. I'll start now by saying, "no, I don't wanna go back to Egypt."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Home Sweet Home

Back in January when we began our fast, we as a family committed to do some kind of personal devotional. Jordanne got a new Bible for Christmas and it had a couple different reading plans. One of them is through the Bible in 90 days. The other evening as she was reading her Bible before bed, she came running down stairs to share what the Lord had showed her in His Word. The following "S.O.A.P." is my twelve year old daughter's journal entry.

"Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer" by Jordanne Hamilton

2 Samuel 7:5-11

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’
8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
“‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you:
Scripture: "The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you:" 2 Samuel 7:11

Observation: David was questioning God about why the Ark of God remained in a tent and he lived in a house of cedar. God told David that He had never expected him to build him a house and that He would make sure His people had homes of their own.

Application: We have been looking for a house since last April. We still haven't found one. We have run into many problems over the last year. For me, it been tough. I want a HOME! Not a house, a HOME! There's a difference . My definition of a house is a physical settlement where it was planned and built up. A home is a place of settling, connection, stress-free, comfortable place that God has prepared. I don't think we have that yet, but I know if we keep our faith in Him, we will prosper and have the perfect home!

Prayer: Dear Jesus, Thank you for blessing our family with the "place you have prepared for us." You have a wonderful house for my family. I pray we keep our faith and not doubt your power. You always come through with your will. You are my only escape from the overwhelming stress. I love you Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Dirty Jobs

Jeff likes to watch a show on the Discovery channel called "Dirty Jobs." The host Mike Rowe works jobs that are unusual. Most of them are jobs that the average person doesn't work because it is very unique as well as very dirty.

We began the book of Leviticus this past week. The book of Leviticus was written as an instruction book for the priests. I thought of something this time that I hadn't before, the priests had a unique job that the average person could not do and it was kind of a dirty job. We look at offering sacrifices as almost being romantic because it is the cleansing of one's sin. But as I started reading about all that the actual duties of the priests, it made me realize that getting clean requires getting dirty.

The key verse in Leviticus is 19:2 which says, "Be holy because I, the Lord your God am holy." The priests were responsible for the peoples holiness. The priests were the only ones consecrated to enter the most holy place and perform the different sacrificial offerings. (Leviticus 8:12 & 13) The Grain offering wasn't too bad. They were to season the Grain offerings with salt, which is a symbol of covenant. When I read about what they had to do for the Fellowship, Sin and Guilt offerings, it was messy. The animals brought had to be butchered in such a way and the blood was to be drained and sprinkled to make atonement.

I remember being in Israel and seeing a model of the area where the people were to bring their sacrifices to the temple. We don't really have a concept of what that would have been like because it is not done today. When our tour guide explained it, the blood drained from the animals would have completely filled the area and the smell of the dead animals surely would not have been pleasant. Once the animals were properly handled they were placed on the alter and the smell of the burning offering over powered everything. Leviticus 1:9 says, "
You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD." God did invent the barbeque.

The priests also had the job of determining skin diseases and infections. They were to examine a sore or sores on one's skin and tell the person whether or not they were considered clean or unclean. I can't imagine telling someone they were unclean. Then the person would have to cry out, "Unclean! Unclean!" (Leviticus 13:45)

As I thought about the responsibility that was placed on the priests, it made me think of pastors today. Pastors don't have the job of butchering for sacrificial offerings as the priests did because Jesus already took care of that. What it did bring to mind the job pastors have is to help people separate the unclean from the clean in their lives.

A pastor has to be willing to roll up his sleeves and get dirty when helping people clean out their lives. It's like those shows where people live in homes piled with "stuff" that they can't get rid of it because it has become apart of them. A psychologist or therapist has to help them separate the unclean from the clean. In almost every situation, the person struggling with the issue can't let go of the "stuff" because they have lived with it so long it is now apart of who they are.

I am so grateful for what Jesus did for us by taking on my sin so that I could be considered clean. Once we have received our salvation, we are so clean that now the Holy Spirit takes residence in us. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" Remember the priests were the only ones allowed in the temple because they had been consecrated before God and could survive the presence of the Lord. If they were not consecrated they would die immediately. So the average person could never be in the presence of God. But because of Jesus, we now have that same presence living in us. Jesus took on the dirty job of carrying our sin and becoming the sacrifice so we could not become consecrated before the Lord. Think about that, the very presence that could kill a man if he was not considered holy, now dwells in us and allows us to live eternally because of Jesus' sacrifice. I'd say Jesus had the dirtiest job of all, but I am thankful that he was willing to do it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Forever After

Locked in her room, Cinderella sits on her knees, one hand on the door knob the other in her lap. She's feeling as though all is lost. Just outside the door are two mice carrying a key up several flights of stairs. As Jock and Gus make their way up the stairs carrying the heavy and awkwardly large key, Lady Tremaine and her two daughters try on a tiny glass slipper. Each sister was doing everything possible to get that shoe to fit.

Finally the two tiny mice make it to the door and just as they slip the key under the door, Lucifer the cat grabs Gus, along with the key and hides him under a cup. The mice and birds begin to try and distract the mean cat, but nothing seems to work. His focus is keeping Gus from escaping. The tension in the scene grows as the two sister's finish trying on shoes and it is time for the men to move on to the next house. Finally, some breakthrough when Cinderella remembers the dog Bruno is the only one who the cat will run from. As Bruno chases Lucifer away, Cinderella unlocks the door and runs after the men asking if she could try the shoe on. Just as she sits down, Lady Tremaine trips the clumsy footman and the glass slipper flies in the air and shatters in a million pieces. For a moment, it seems that all is lost. Then out of her pocket, Cinderella pulls out the matching shoe. And so the story concludes with, "And they lived happily ever after."

Much of the events lately in my life seem to resemble the stress in this last portion of the movie, Cinderella. It seems we just miss breakthrough by a margin. Rather than moving closer to a conclusion, it would seem the farther away from a solution and deeper into the hole we get.

This past week in Psalms I read chapter 32. Verses 6 and 7 says this, "Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.
7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." How many times have you found yourself in a place that it seemed the mighty waters of life were over your head and you barely had enough in you to come up for air. I know this feeling all to well. All you can do is to hang on to the life preserver of "promise" that God will rescue you.

The other morning I woke up thinking of some people that must have surely felt this way. Joseph, had found himself in prison. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, had found themselves in a firey furnace. And Daniel, had found himself in the lions den. All these men had "done the right thing" and yet God had allowed them to be put in positions that seemed hopeless. I'm sure they had moments that they wondered how in the world did they get there. God actually made them "go through" rather than deliver them before hand.

After thinking about this for a moment, I began to think about what Jesus did. Jesus was perfect and did nothing wrong, yet he had to "go through" with his death on the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells Peter, James and John, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matthew 26:37 & 38). As Jesus prayed, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)

If you have seen the movie "The Passion of the Christ" we know what Jesus had to endure. God did not choose to let that cup pass, but rather he had to "go through".
Because of this unselfish act, not only did he conquer his own death, but he conquered death for all of mankind. John 3:16 says it all, "For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life."

There are many stories of young maidens who are held captive by some evil step mother or queen. They did not do anything wrong, but found themselves being blamed for the other person's sin. In those stories there is always a prince who is willing to fight for her life to the point he is willing to die himself so that he may prove his love for her.

Our lives are written much like these stories. Sometimes we are held captive by others sin. What I mean by that, what others impose on us without our consent. That is what Jesus did for us. We imposed our sin on him, but he was willing to endure the cross because of his love for us. He was willing to give his life for us. In return we are then protected from any affliction the enemy would try to impose on us. Psalm 34:18 says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, BUT the Lord delivers him out of them all."

As I think back on Joseph, Daniel, and the three Hebrew children, they may have had to "go through" it, but they were set free to the point that Shadrach, Meshach and Abenego did not even smell like smoke and Daniel did not have one scratch when he came out of the den of lions (Daniel 3:27 & 6:23). We can make it through whatever difficulty we find ourselves in. We are victorious in every situation because Jesus rescued us 2000 years ago so that we will live with him not only happily ever after, but forever after.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Purified Water

Who doesn’t like a refreshing drink of water on a hot day? My husband has his favorite brand of water that he prefers. Most of the good bottled water has minerals added for flavor. Who would have ever thought a piece of wood could do the same.
The first miracle in the desert after God had opened and closed the Red Sea was about a piece of wood and water. The small section found in Exodus 15:22-25 (NIV) caught my eye as I was reading. It reads, “22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. [e] ) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" 25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” Another translation says it became “good to drink”.

As I read those 4 verses, I wondered why a piece of wood? Did the wood represent hope that there could possibly be trees found in this desert region? I wonder if Moses wondered why God would choose a piece of wood as opposed to a rock which probably was more available, especially since rock is made up of minerals from dirt. I’ve been to one of the desert regions near the Dead Sea and there weren’t many trees around, just rocks. Not to mention, it was so hot I couldn’t drink enough water to satisfy my thirst.

I wondered if this was God’s first clue to His children that one day, He would send His son die on a piece of wood to redeem the people from the bitterness of sin. I believe this was God’s visual illustration to show His children what was to come. Even then, God wanted the people to ask the question, what are we to drink? Jesus referred to himself as the “living water” when he encountered the Samaritan woman. He said to her in John 4:13& 14 (NIV), “13Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Could that piece of wood thrown into that bitter water possibly be the picture of Jesus? Jesus, the living water was hung on a piece of wood to redeem mankind so that we all could have the opportunity to drink from this well. For a moment there Jesus became all sin and bitterness for us. Just as he said in verse 14, if we drink from the water he gives, we will never thirst and that water will well up inside of us and will give us eternal life. The conclusion I have come to is, that piece of wood where the “Living Water” hung made salvation sweet for all of us.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Labor and Delivery

It was the February 29th, 1996 and I was getting closer to the delivery of my first born. At about 10:30pm, the nurse and the anesthesiologist came into the room to see if I was ready for my epidural. About an hour earlier, the nurse had given me pitocin to increase the contractions as they were irregular. My baby must have been comfortable because he was slow in getting here. The nurse said that it had been too many hours from the point of my water breaking and now we were getting to the point it could be dangerous. Once she gave me the pitocin, my labor pains became more intense and much closer together. It was shortly after that, I had the epidural which relieved the pain.

Around midnight, I remember lying there comfortably. All was quiet and content in my room, but in the distance I could hear the a woman, screaming at the top of her lungs. The nurse came in to check on me and I asked her what was going on. She replied, "Sweetie, some ladies want to heroes." Apparently that mom-to-be had opted out of the epidural and chose to endure the labor and delivery process.

This week, we began the labor and delivery process of the Israelites. Joseph's influence in Egypt had begun to subside. About 400 years after the Israelites settled in Goshen, they found themselves with a new king who did not know Joseph and had become a people greater in number than the Egyptians (Exodus 1:8 & 9). The scripture goes on to say that the Egyptians oppressed them with forced labor and made them work ruthlessly and that they made their lives bitter with hard labor making brick and mortar and working the fields (Exodus 1:11-14).

The people began to cry out to God to deliver them from their pain. God hears them and sends them one of their own, Moses. When God came to Moses, he was in Midian country. Maybe like me, he wanted to avoid the pain that he might experience because he heard the cry of his people, like I heard the the woman down the hall. He argued a bit with God trying to pass on the "hard labor" he might face when confronting Pharaoh about the release of his people. As always, God's plan prevailed and Moses was off to Egypt.

In Chapter 5 of Exodus, we begin the early stages of contractions. The Israelites were already experiencing, what I might call "Braxton Hicks". They are contractions that don't hurt too bad that happen weeks before actual labor takes place. It it the process of preparing the body for the day of delivery. The Israelites were suffering under the rule of new Pharaoh, but they didn't know what labor was until Moses requested their release. Verses 6 through 9 it says,
" That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 7 “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.'" Moses' request was like giving the Israelites pitocin. Their labor became "hard labor."

We begin to see the contractions become more intense for the Israelites. We all know that the contractions must be stronger and closer together before delivery can happen. I believe this was the first stage of hard labor for the Israelites. God had already promised them 400 years earlier that He would deliver them (Genesis 50:24). Little did they know they would have to go through the whole labor process before they could be delivered.

I believe this is a visual illustration of what we experience as we mature spiritually. When we first come to Jesus, that is our first experience of deliverance. Much like Jacob and his sons had when they had relocated to the land of Goshen. Life was good because they were now going to be taken care of. As time passed, they were growing in number and became a threat to the Egyptian people. Much like what happens as we grow spiritually. The more knowledge and understanding we gain as followers of Jesus, the more of a threat we become to the Enemy. So our suffering becomes greater. Psalm 34:19 says, "Many
are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all." (NKJ)

Labor in a spiritual sense is never easy. Over my life as a follower of Jesus, I have discovered there isn't a "spiritual epidural" that can be administered when life labor pains intensify. Oh how I wish there was because there are times in my life that the pain is unbearable. As we push through the process not only is glory to be birthed, but the hope we need to believe is being produced. Romans 5:1-5 says this, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

It is through Jesus' suffering, or should I say, his labor pains, that deliver us from sin to receive salvation. Romans 8:17 says we will share in his sufferings and in order that we may share in his glory. Jesus is like the the mom-to-be that I heard that night I was about to give birth, he chose not to opt out of the painful process, but to be a hero and deliver us.

As with the women in those days and throughout generations, labor and delivery is never experienced alone. A midwife was used to help the coach the woman through the birthing process, much like midwives, nurses, birthing coaches and husbands coach women today. I believe the Holy Spirit is our "husband" to encourage and coach us during our labor and delivery.

Maybe you have found yourself in in a season of "hard labor." Personally, this has been a season in my own life that I have been experiencing labor pains and they seem to be getting more intense and closer together. In child birth, the actual time of delivery is unknown, unless one has a "scheduled" C-section. Like the "spiritual epidural", there is no "spiritual C-section" in our delivery process. We have to p.u.s.h. (pray until something happens) until we have been delivered. With these words, let me encourage you as well as encourage myself, don't give up! Or in another word, do not abort what God is about to birth in your life. The delivery of God's promise will outweigh the pain of labor and the joy that will follow will be more glorious than you can imagine.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Like Father, Like Son

Over the past few days, the daily reading plan takes us to the story of Joseph. Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, now called Israel. Many of us are familiar with the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50).

Eventually Jacob and his sons made their way to Egypt and were reunited with Joseph. Jacob lived in Egypt, during the famine. Something that struck me in this next portion of scripture was that after Jacob died, he was embalmed. Joseph told the physicians to embalm his father (Genesis 50:2 & 3).

History tells us the Egyptians are well known for this practice which developed into mummification. They believed that preservation of the mummy empowered the soul after death, which would return to the preserved corpse.* In the Jewish culture, embalming is avoided. At this time Jewish people had not yet become a nation, but Jacob, now called Israel, was embalmed. Joseph, like Jacob was also embalmed when he died (Genesis 50:26). This to me is a foreshadow of God preserving his people throughout history. Joseph tells his brothers in Genesis 45:7, "
But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.a]">"

In the bigger picture, God preserved the nation of Israel because through them His very own Son would be birthed. Jesus, being God, came for a great deliverance. Jesus is not only like God, he is God (John 10:30). Jesus delivered us from death into everlasting life (John 3:16). Because Jesus came, we now have the Holy Spirit. When we receive Jesus into our life, the Holy Spirit then gives our spirit life and "preserves" us from death.

Joseph, like Jacob was not buried in Egypt. When Moses and the children of Israel left Egypt, they took the bones of Joseph with them, as Joseph had requested (Exodus 13:19). If you think about that, that was 400 years later. If they had not embalmed him, there may not have been bones to take. God let Israel know ahead of time that He would deliver them from their slavery through Joseph's request. He said to his brothers, "'I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised an oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' 25 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.'" (Genesis 50:24 & 25) It was another foreshadow of God's preservation for his people.

Our Heavenly Father is eternal. He has given each of us a promise of eternal life. He has given us the Holy Spirit to preserve us until Jesus returns. Just as Jacob and Joseph were buried with their forefathers in death, we will be joined with our Father for life.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Tasty Food

Ten days ago, we began a twenty-one day fast with our church family. We are well into the book of Genesis in our daily reading plan as well. Last week we read again, another story of food being used as a prop in an act of deception.

In chapter 27 we read the story of Rebekah and Jacob deceiving Isaac so that Jacob could receive the blessing of the birthright he had taken from his brother. The story begins with Isaac as an old man and nearly blind. He was moving closer to his death and told Esau to go out and hunt some wild game (Genesis 27:1-3). "Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die." (Genesis 27:4)

Rebekah had overheard the conversation and because Jacob was her favorite son, quickly came up with a scheme for him to receive the blessing. She said beginning in verse 8, "Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies."(Genesis 27:8-10)

Jacob questioned his mother by replying that his brother was a hairy man and that he had smooth skin. How could he convince his dad that he was Esau if he touched him? He feared that a curse would fall upon him rather than a blessing if his father caught on. That was when Rebekah told him to put on the best of Esau's clothes and then put goat skins on top of his hands and the back of his neck. She prepared the tasty food, along with some bread and had Jacob take it into his father. (Genesis 27:11-17).

In verse 18, Jacob went to his father and claimed he was Esau. Isaac questions Jacob because his voice is that of Jacob. After touching his hands, Isaac believed he was Esau and gave him his blessing. After Esau returned from hunting, he prepared his father tasty food and went to him to receive his blessing. It was then the secret was out and Isaac realized he had been deceived. Both Isaac and Esau were upset by this, so much so that in verse 35 Isaac says to Esau, "Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing." (Genesis 27:18-40)

Esau began to plot to kill his brother after his father passed. Rebekah got wind of his plan and told Jacob to flee to her brother Laban in Haran because the Hittite women disgusted her and she did not want him to marry one of them. (Genesis 27:41-46). I did discovered that Rebekah wasn't such a nice woman, she was much like her brother Laban, deceiving.

What I find truly interesting in this whole story is Jacob didn't know God yet. Back in verse 20, when Jacob went into Isaac he says to him after Isaac asks him how did he find the game so quickly, Jacob replies, "The Lord your God gave me success."(Genesis 27:20) This suggests to me that Jacob didn't know God. It actually didn't happen until he finds himself in the desert on his way to Haran that he has his own encounter with God and makes a vow to God. (Genesis 28:21-22)

I share this story because, it is helping me to understand the importance of why we are to fast. Food, although necessary, can be used as a stumbling block in our lives. Because we need food to live, the enemy likes to use it to lure us by telling us, "you've gotta eat anyway." What I mean by that is we give ourselves permission to eat what we want. We subtly then give ourselves permission to "do" what we want. We each face our own "temptation in the garden" when we have the option to choose food or God. Jesus said when he fasted for 40 days "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only." (Matthew 4:10)

There was a reason Daniel chose not to eat from the king's table. There he could have eaten royal food and wine, but he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Instead, for ten days he ate only fruits and vegetables. It says that he and the other boys looked healthier than those who had eaten from the king's table and it says God gave them knowledge and understanding. (Daniel 1:1-17)

I heard a pastor say that food is our connection to the world. When we fast and pray, we change that by connecting with God through prayer and disconnect with the world through fasting.* That makes so much sense to me.

There was something very significant about Jesus fasting for 40 days before he began his ministry. Jesus was telling us and the devil that he is not of this world and did not have to live by the world's ways. His fast was proof that he was not connected to this world. Instead that he overcame the world (John 16:33). He came to tell us that "Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

Jacob's blessing didn't come immediately. As the saying says, "what goes around, comes around." For twenty-some years Jacob had been deceived by his Uncle Laban, but in God's goodness Jacob's life turned around and he even made peace with his brother Esau.

As we move into the end of our fast, I pray that we will begin to see things turn around. I pray specifically for health issues that have been caused by tasty food. That we will see and hear of healing miracles because we have been willing to disconnect from the world and connect with God. Through prayer that we would see a new and better connection to the Lord than ever before. That His power and presence would be sensed in every area of our lives. So I encourage you to press through on this fast. As Jacob said, "Let OUR God give us success."

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Fast Food

We have heard for years that fast food is unhealthy. Even though we know this, many of us, due to schedule, still eat it. Some claim to be healthier than others because they use vegetable oil rather than lard. Whatever the case, if we are in a hurry or have skipped meals and end up feeling starved, we'll drive through our favorite fast food restaurant for the quick convenience of it.

Genesis 25 begins the story of Esau and Jacob. The twin brothers were complete opposites. Esau was a "man's man" and loved to hunt. Jacob, on the other hand, preferred to help out around the house and cook. Even though they were twins, Esau was in line for the "birthright" because he had been born first. Jacob, who's name means supplanter which means to take the place of through force or scheming, wanted that birthright. Genesis 25:29-34 reads, "Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.
30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.) 31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” 33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright." This "fast food" moment definitely was an unwise choice of Esau. Maybe this "fast food" didn't kill him literally, but it killed the blessing on his household and future generations to come.

I started thinking about these verses in a spiritual context. I find it interesting that I'm reading this as I began a twenty-one day fast. Often times when we are spiritually starving, like Esau who said if he didn't get anything to eat was about to die, are willing to eat anything to fill us up. We'll be so spiritually famished, but rather than get into the Word of God or listen to some teaching podcast or even go to church, we'll fill up on "junk" food. Junk food is referring to anything that does not have any Godly edification. We'll watch the television and possibly pass by a preacher who is speaking, but won't stop to listen often because we don't care for his style. I admit I am guilty of this, but somehow, if I stick around there for a few minutes, more than likely the Holy Spirit uses that moment to speak to me. Instead, we'll turn on some mindless program that does nothing for us except pollute us with information that isn't even important. Those empty calories.

Esau in this passage, allowed his flesh to overrun his moment of need and in one bite of food, sold his blessing for eternity. What I am saying here is that we have to be more cautious of becoming spiritually famished. Many times we are "spiritually starving to death" for the thing that only Jesus can give us, the bread of life. Often times we'll choose the "fast food" to fill us. Fast food only ends up leaving us more hungry and sometimes can lead us to sickness or death. For example, watching some of the "positive thinking" lectures on television is like eating french fries. We convince ourselves that it's okay because french fries are made from potatoes and it is a vegetable. We know it's fried in oil that is full of additives, but give ourselves permission to because it's satisfying for the moment. Those "positive thinking" lectures are similar in the fact there is some truth, but it's coated in man's wisdom. Fast food can lead to the clogging of your arteries or adding unwanted pounds, so is it when we take in spiritual fast food.

When we chose Jesus as our Savior, we immediately received the birthright. That birthright can never be taken from us as long as we choose Him. When we took that birthright, our spirit became alive and has to be fed properly. We can never live a healthy spiritual life if we aren't feeding our spirit regularly the Truth. There have been some who claimed Jesus as their Lord, but didn't feed their spirit properly and became spiritually famished. When that happened they no longer had a taste for Truth but for junk and therefore turned away from Jesus. Just like when we turn to the potato chips when we're physically famished instead of carrot sticks. Eventually we lose a taste for healthy food.

It is said that people who eat small portions more often throughout the day stay full. I can say that is true when I have tried this way of eating. But when we skip breakfast, we end up eating more in the afternoon and it is usually unhealthy food. That quick bite to tide us over can eventually be harmful. I too can say this from experience. This can be true in our spiritual life. It is better to start the day off with, a Proverb or Psalm and listen to some teaching podcast, a little worship, and conclude the day with a good meal of the Word. You will be amazed at how you good feel. Yes, there will be days that it's like eating salad. It's was good for you, but not so comforting. Then there will be days that it's like eating Filet Mignon and will be so filling and comforting. My point is, don't turn to the "spiritual fast food" it's about being filled not famished. Otherwise you might end up like Esau, full but nothing of value in your life.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Temptation

Every year when January rolls around, people begin making resolutions. The number one resolution for the average person is to lose weight. Advertisers bombard us with weight loss programs, pills and fitness clubs cut prices in half to acquire new members. What is it about food that we allow ourselves to indulge? There is even a new word out there for people who love food. They are called "foody's". Eventually our lack of restraint causes extra pounds that bring on all kinds of health issues. Our eating habits can cause heart disease and diabetes which both are at an all time high. We all know the fall of man had to do with a desire for food. A piece of fruit for that matter.

This week as we begin reading through the Bible, we begin with creation. I noticed three things in the fall of man that to this day we deal with. The first being Satan always questioning God's authority and who He is. He said to the woman in verse one, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1) What's he trying to say here, that God is a liar?

The second is questioning power. Most of the world's problems throughout history and today are from those who want to rule the world. Genesis 3:4-5 says, "You will not surely die, " the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." God had already given them complete authority over every living thing on the earth.
The very first thing God said to man was he was to increase in number and to rule over every fish, bird and creature on the earth (Genesis 1:28). Satan made an accusation causing them to question the authority God had given them and that He was holding out on them something more and better. Maybe if they knew what good and evil was then they would have God's power and authority. Think about it, they had not yet been exposed to evil.The third is food. After God created man, the first command God gave man was to eat, but not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:16-17). In chapter 3 of Genesis, food was the prop used by Satan to tempt Adam and Eve. In verse 6 it says, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it" (Genesis 3:6). It is no wonder why we struggle today with food, whether it is with obesity or even anorexia. It was obviously one of the pleasures from the garden of Eden that God allowed us to keep. As a result of sin, Satan used it to sabotage what God intended it for pleasure and use it to our demise.

We also read this week the beginning of Jesus' life. In Matthew 4, Jesus has not yet begun his ministry. Jesus goes to the desert. There he fasted 40 days (Matthew 4:1&2). Jesus being man, felt the hunger pangs. The scripture is clear to let us know that. Satan attempts to catch Jesus in a time of weakness and tries to do to him what he did to Adam, using the same technique. He even used the same three topics, tempting him with food, life/death, and power. This time the scenery is different than Adam's. Jesus is no where near fruit trees or lush gardens. Instead he's in the dry, hot and dusty desert.

Satan is referred to as the tempter in this passage. Matthew 4:3 says, "The tempter came to him and said, 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.'" The tempter in his suggestion to Jesus uses the word if as to question who Jesus is. Of course it was no surprise to Jesus that he would play on his moment of weakness by suggesting food that would have probably been satisfying in that moment. But Jesus rebuked him by speaking the Word of God back to him that man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).

Again, the tempter challenged Jesus of who he was with the power of life and death. In verse 6, the tempter even tried to use the Word of God as his reason for questioning. It says, "'If you are the Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down. For it is written: "He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone'" (Matthew 4:6; Psalm 91:11 & 12). Again, Jesus rebuked his suggestion with using the Word by telling him not to put God to the test (Matthew 4:7; Deuteronomy 6:16).

Lastly, like Adam, dangled the carrot of power in front of Jesus by taking him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor (Matthew 4:8). In verse 9 he says, "'All this I will give you,' he said, 'if you will bow down and worship me."' But Jesus knew who he was and knew the authority he was given and again, rebuked the words of Satan by the Word of God that says "Away from me Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord you God, and serve him only.'" (Matthew 4:10;Deuteronomy 6:13)

The lesson we learn from Jesus is how to handle temptations. This is why it is so important to know the Word of God. Beginning a new year off with committing to read through the Bible will help when faced with temptations.

I believe this is why even fasting is so important and specifically at the first of the year. God meant for us to be spiritual beings and the kind of food the spirit needs is different from the flesh. God intended for Adam to be eternal, but because he was flesh ended up making choices that brought death to man. Jesus is called the "last Adam". God sent him to give life to our spirit so we could dwell with him eternally. (1 Corinthians 15:45). Eternally is the way he originally intended for us to live. Jesus showed us that we can resist temptation if we have a clear connection in the spirit with God and know the Word. Fasting is a way of saying "no" to our flesh, and "yes" to our spirit.

As you begin this new year with resolutions that will likely be broken, I want to encourage you to read through the Bible this year and try a fast of some kind over the next month. Give God a tithe of your life this year by saying "no" to your flesh and "yes" to Him. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
" (NLT) He will not lead you into temptation, but deliver you from evil one (Matthew 16:13).