Tuesday, December 15, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?" A famous line from the movie "Snow White" that I was reminded of reading Proverbs this morning. Proverbs 27:19 says "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man." 

Now that I am working in the "beauty" business, daily I come across ladies and some men, who are looking for that miracle cream. The kind of cream that will give them youth, radiance and beauty. What is beauty anyway? We've all heard the saying "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." 

Part of my job in engaging my customers is to "make the magic" happen. If I told them the truth, there is no make up or cream that will reverse the damage already done to their skin. If they start a regimen, they can prolong what they already have. Really what they need to be caring for is their heart or their attitude. So many times I wish I could tell them it's not their cosmetics, it's a daily regimen for cleansing and caring for their heart. 

Unforgiveness, anger, bitterness and fear are pollution to our soul. It not only affects us emotionally, but physically. Jesus said in Luke 11:34 "Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness." 

There is only One who can give that radiant glow we are longing so much for. When we surrender to a daily regimen of reading the Bible and prayer that is more relational than ritual, we begin to transform from the inside out.

There is only one answer to the question of "who is the fairest one of all?" His name is Jesus! Make him apart of your beauty routine. He is only way to attain a beautiful heart.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - The Treasure of Wisdom

What is it about the sparkle of the gems and coins in a treasure box that excites our soul? When I was a little girl, my grandma took us to Disneyland quite often.  One of my favorite rides was the Pirates of the Caribbean.  We'd float through the dark caverns looking at the scenes of a pirates life. One of my favorite scenes was the "treasure scene," a room filled with gold coins, silver candelabras and goblets, and jewelry and gems of every kind imaginable.  Something about that room always brought a jolt of excitement. Oh how I wish I could have jumped in the middle of that mound of treasure. I wished I could bury myself in all that sparkle.

When I think about my journey through the Bible, it looks a lot like the ride I loved so much at Disneyland.  The first half of the book are stories of the journey of mankind searching for something.  Something that will make him of value. The book of Proverbs is much like that room full of hidden treasures. It is a book on wisdom and wisdom can only be found. Proverbs 3:13-18 says, "Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, 14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies; and  nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed."

God's Word is like a treasure map, full of value and priceless sacrifice that He so wants us to discover.  We can only do that if we roll up our sleeves and begin digging.  In the process, we discover who He is and what the treasures He has given us that the world cannot give.  His wisdom is one of those treasures. The more knowledge and understanding you gain from reading His map, the more you discover that wisdom is not something, it's someone.  That someone is His son Jesus.  The priceless treasure that He so freely gave. Sin, like the dirt, has buried this treasure and so many have no idea that it is even out there for them to find.  But for those who do find it, find the treasure of eternal life, like a pirate who finds the "fountain of youth".  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:6 & 7 "For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

The treasure that mankind is so desperate to find is not wealth and power, but it is wisdom and that wisdom comes through the salvation of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said he is THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life. (John 14:3) That sounds like the description of wisdom to me. 

As I close, I want to tell you this, if you want to find great treasure, get "the treasure map" (the Bible) and begin to dig in to it and discover this priceless treasure that awaits you.  Deuteronomy 4:29 says "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." There is no treasure in this world that will excite your soul more than the light of Jesus that shines out of you when you find him.

Friday, October 30, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: Spiritual Warfare in 3D

Back in the 80's, Disneyland unveiled it's first 3D attraction "Captain EO."  Michael Jackson played Captain EO, who is on a mission to deliver a gift to a planet that is set for destruction. Captain EO brings the gift to the supreme leader. There is a struggle to get the leader of the planet to receive the gift, (the gift being love and acceptance) and eventually she does and it saves her planet.  We hardly paid attention to the plot of the movie because we were so into seeing the objects float in front of us. We would try to touch the 3D images. If we took our glasses off, we would laugh because all the people doing the same, looked like cats batting a piece of string.  They were just hitting air.

This made me think of what spiritual warfare looks like. The Lord gave me a great picture of spiritual warfare using the illustration of 3D. When looking at a 3D picture, you have to wear special glasses or else the picture is blurry. Well, to some degree that is true in the Spirit. God views us as 3D beings: body (flesh), soul (mind, will and emotion) and spirit (the place where He belongs).

In Ephesians, Paul writes to the people of Ephesus about an important battle that they must learn to fight.  To this very day, we followers of Christ, fight this very same battle, that if we aren't paying attention, will lead to our destruction. The 3D's in Ephesians 6 go something like this. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) We have to put on our "spiritual 3D" glasses when we pray because if we don't, we are just batting the air.

The first "D" is "Determine - Who and what the enemy is." Verse 12 says clearly that we are fighting against darkness and evil forces in the spiritual realm. Maybe we can't see them, but one of the clues that Ephesians 6:11 gives us is that we have to stand against the Devil's schemes.  We have to recognize the schemes of the enemy in order to expose his plan against us. One of his biggest schemes is stirring us up and causing offense against one another and therefore causing unforgiveness in our lives. God is pretty clear on His stance on forgiveness.

Speaking of stance. That's another issue. We often get so blind-sided by our circumstances. One night I was unable to sleep because we were in the midst of a "storm." As I was praying, the Lord told me to take the word "circumstance" and separate it. I looked up the words. "Circum" means "to go around" and the word "stance" means "a position while standing." What a revelation for me. My circumstances are inevitable. As soon as one has passes, another will be on its way. They just keep going around and around. But it is all dependant on how I "stand" it out. With my feet planted firmly on the Word of God. A great movie illustration is from the movie "Forces of Nature" where the couple is about to be married and everything that could go wrong does. Not to mention a hurricane shows up on their wedding day and their ceremony is outside!  While standing at the alter, looking at each other face to face in the eye, they tell each other that no matter what, they are going to be together. In the meantime, the winds are stirring around them and papers and furniture are swirling around them. People are screaming at them to get inside, but they don't care because they are so engaged with each other. I suppose in a sense if we are the bride of Christ, he is the groom telling us how much He loves us and not to worry about anything because he is committed to us.

T.D. Jakes said "Jesus said a kingdom divided can not stand. The one thing Satan has going for him is that his army is in unity - they are out to destroy the body of Christ." Boy is that ever true. It seems that the "Church" at large is always stirred up about something. We need to thwart that scheme by sticking together.

The second "D" is "Dress - In the Full Armor of God". Ephesians 6:13-17 says, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." I heard Joyce Meyer once say, "notice there isn't any armor for the back because we are to face our circumstances head on." Is that ever true.

We have to be so prepared at all times. On September 11, 2001, we were attacked by extreme Islamists who casually took over 4 airplanes and used our own aircraft to destroy not only land mark buildings, but killed innocent people and destroyed families. This is exactly the tactic of the enemy. He will sneak up out of no where just to bring you down. I realized one day, even when a stranger curses you, for example while driving (need I say more), that that is one of the darts the enemy throws at us. Those are word curses that are spoken over you. Right at that moment you need to break them by praying, "In the name of Jesus, I break those curses spoken over me right now!"

On the flip side, sometimes we curse people and don't ask for forgiveness. Jack Hayford said, "We pray the scripture 'no weapon formed against me shall prosper.' Do you know when you speak against a brother or sister in the Lord that you are being used as a weapon of the enemy?" Sometimes, without us even knowing it, we are the weapon the Devil uses. That's pretty sneaky if you ask me.

The third "D" is "Decode - Through prayer." Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." Praying in the Spirit is where the gift of tongues comes into play. Romans 8:26 & 27 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Praying in the Spirit brings so much clarity to how we should pray. Personally, there are days that there is so much to pray for that I don't know where to begin. When I pray in tongues, then the Holy Spirit brings to mind what is on the Father's heart. What is important at that moment. Sometimes He gives me pictures and sometimes situations and names. It's truly amazing. Praying in the spirit is like putting on 3D glasses. Pictures come to mind that normally wouldn't because the Holy Spirit is the filter through which I am praying.

To conclude this look at Ephesians in 3D I pray that you will become aware of the ways the enemy comes after you. Over this next week, look out for "schemes" he might use to trip you up. Ultimately God knows the plans that He has for each one of our lives and the enemy doesn't. But the Devil will do whatever it takes to prolong Jesus' return to his bride without spot or wrinkle. Like the plot in "Captain EO," where the planet is bound for destruction, but Captain EO saves it with a gift of love, Jesus was the gift to this planet to save us from destruction. He was the ultimate gift of love and through him, all we have to do is receive it and believe it, then we can change the world. The battle to save the world is REAL.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Trees of Hope

It is so amazing to me how God will speak to me through His Word and nature.  He made me a visual person so I suppose this is His way of communicating.

Two weeks ago, I noticed a scripture card that I had placed on my bulletin board over my desk.  To be quite honest, I have several scripture cards pinned to the board and this one was not one that I really noticed until one morning in my devotions. 

Last week, I happened to land in the book of Job.  Amazingly, the scripture that I had pinned to the board was in the scripture reading.  It was Job 14:7-9 NLT "Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches. 8 Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays,9 at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling." 

In context, this portion of scripture is during a conversation Job is having with his friends who are telling him he's been disobedient and that is why his life is in turmoil.  Job replies in his moment of sorrow sounding a bit hopeless, yet never turns his heart from God.  

This same week, we took a mini trip up to Northern California.  Little did I know that God was going to use trees to speak to me.  We visited the redwoods in the Muir Woods National Monument.  As we followed the trail, giants redwoods stood hundreds of stories high.  These trees have been there for centuries.  The nature of redwoods is that they are very hearty trees.  Not much can destroy them, which is why they have grown so tall and their trunks are pretty thick.  But what I found interesting was that some had fallen and never removed.  It was at this moment I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, "Are you going to be like the fallen tree or are you going to be the standing tree?"  Although the fallen trees added to the beauty, they had no life to them and actually got in the way of some of the paths. They had been cut in half so visitors could continue to view the beauty of the redwood forest. 

Over the last 18 months, I have pulled back because of circumstances. I felt I had lost my sense of calling and purpose.  Some, to be honest, I know was my frustration with God as it seemed some "pruning" was going on.  I know pruning is good, but it does hurt!  

On our way home from our mini vacation, we took a detour and visited the Sequoia National Park.  This too was another amazing forest of trees that have stood for thousands of years. These trees, like the redwoods are hearty trees as well.

The "cone" of a sequoia stays on a tree for 20 years.  The only way for the cone to reproduce is with fire.  When a fire comes through a forest, it causes the cones to open and release millions of seeds.  These seeds are best fertilized by the compost left from the burned areas of where the fire has been.  These trees have also built up a resistance to fire and can survive a fire.  During our visit, there was a forest fire happening in Kings Canyon, just north of the sequoias.

What makes this illustration come alive to me is not only can the tree survive, the fact that it is fire that allows it to reproduce and grow.  This made me think about life in general.  We often go through fire storms in our lives that we often let burn us out.  Unlike the sequoia that needs the heat to produce something, we let the fire become a negative and kill what God is doing in our lives. Even worse we let it burn up the desires and dreams in our heart. This reminded me of Jeremiah 17:8 NLT "They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."

In the verse in Job, it says a dead tree can bud at the scent of water.  Job had no idea when he said this that he was drawing a picture of salvation.  We are dead in our spirit until we "drink from the Living Water" who is Jesus and then our spirit comes alive. Jesus often referred to himself as "living water." And it's only when we stay connected to Jesus can we see our desires and dreams come to life.

As I close, there is one thing these forests have in common.  It's the fact they are forests and not a single tree.  Even in the redwood forest some of the trees had grown together.

 This is a reminder to me that we can't live our lives alone. God created us to need one another for encouragement and strength.

The Body of Christ should be a beautiful forest of green trees that stand together with one another during the storms and fires of life.  We should look more like the picture below in a green garden because we thrive on the Living Water to keep us strong and healthy.  A dry plant won't blow away, burn down or dry up if it has been watered.

If you are walking through a season of hurricane force winds, fire or drought, first ask yourself if you have received from the one and only "Living Water." If you have never accepted Jesus as your personal savior, you can do so right now by just stating that you believe and receive him.  If you are a follower of Jesus and feel like you have been knocked down, then allow the scent of water to begin to breathe new life into you.  If you are in the midst of fire, allow the fire to reproduce the purpose God has for your life and not burn it out.  If you have not taken root, whether it's committing to a church or gathering with fellow Believers, then do so because you weren't meant to stand alone.  

I'll close with this from Romans 5:1-5 NLT"Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."


Sunday, May 31, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: It's Reigning, It's Pouring...

For months I've been waiting to write on the book of Joel. This book has a special place in my heart. It is scripture that I have clung to many times in the past 5 years. I must give a disclaimer as what I am about to write is not backed by Biblical Scholars or Theologians. It is what I believe the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me over a period of time.

It wasn't until my trip Israel that I could fully understand this book. There are many metaphors used to describe situations and circumstances through this book of only 3 chapters. Yet it is powerful. I don't think Joel knew when writing this how much it would resemble the middle east in the 21st century. Even though some of the prophetic books in the Bible have already taken place, I do believe the reason they are still important to this day is because history does repeat itself. Joel 1:2&3 says "Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?" 3 Tell it to your children and let your children, tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation."

The premise of this book is a warning to the southern kingdom of Judah. They have rebelled against God and now they are paying the consequences. But God in His mercy tells the prophet Joel to warn Judah of their doom if they don't make a change in their current lifestyle. No matter what, God is God and He will reign.

Joel Chapter 1 speaks of an invasion of locusts. Why locusts? Locusts are an insect that devours everything in its path. As well as leaving it in complete devastation and ruin. As we traveled by bus from Galilee to Jerusalem, the book of Joel came to life for me. So much of what I saw now makes sense to me. Our tour guide mentioned there was a "nation" in the land of Israel that is not known for the upkeep of its property. We could definitely tell which areas were possessed by this people group. These areas were not as clean as those occupied by the Jewish people. I remember too walking into the old city of Jerusalem and being greeted by this particular nations children. They were making evil faces at us as we entered. It was very interesting. It was at this point, the "locusts" represented this particular group of people. Joel 1:6-7 says, "A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. 7It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white." This is exactly what the areas occupied by this nation were like.

While on the bus from Galilee to Jerusalem, we drove along the Jordanian border. There was an eeriness about this particular section of the drive. It was desolate and as we passed by cinder block bunkers, we could see the residue of war. We could see where bullets fired at these places had penetrated the cement blocks. Trees were nothing but charred sticks. We can't imagine what war looks like here in the U.S. It was a bit disturbing to this American-bread Southern California girl. War here is spray paint along the freeway walls where gang members write in code to one another. Joel 1:19 says, "To you, O Lord, I call, for fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field." Doesn't that fit the description of what I saw?

As we continued our travel along the border, the Jordan River was in the distance. We had left it earlier where it was lush and green. But now the river seemed to get smaller and smaller, while the banks of where the river used to flow got higher and wider. This must have been where the Israelites had crossed because if the river had come up to the top, it would have been deep and wide. Our tour guide said that the Jordan had been cut off due to keeping the Lake in Galilee filled with water. This body of water is now used as a reservoir. This is why the Dead Sea is drying up because there is no water from the Jordan flowing into it. The farther we drove, the smaller and more shallow this river became. Now it was like a stream. Joel 1:20 says, "Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures."

Chapter 2 of Joel is a warning to the people of Judah that an army is coming to destroy their land. Verses 2&3 says, "a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. 3Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste-nothing escapes them." Being from Southern California, I am no stranger to fire storms. They are incredibly overwhelming as well as intriguing. Most Southern Californians stay glued to their television when these fires break out as they move across hillsides and deserted terrains leaving only charred ground and ash in their wake. The air is thick with ash and the sky as dark as clouds of a thunderstorm. It looks much like snow flakes as they drift through the air. Even living several miles away from one of these fires can leave its residue covering yards, porches and cars. Unlike snow that is pure and white, the ashes leave its victims feeling filthy and dirty. Joel 2:10 says, "Before the earth shakes and sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine." During these kind of fire storms, the billows of smoke leave the sun and moon a reddish color, while the stars cease to shine. Have you ever been underneath those commercial fireworks that are shot off? I have and the whole area shakes and sounds like thunder. I wonder if when it talks about the sky trembling if it's not a picture of air strikes in battle.

In this 2nd chapter of Joel, God calls the nation of Israel to a Holy fast. If they obey this command, the Lord promises they will be restored. "Then the LORD will be jealous for his land
and take pity on his people.
19 The LORD will reply to them: "I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. (A thought: grain represents the bread of life - Jesus, new wine - the blood of Jesus to cover sin and oil- the Holy Spirit*)20 "I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land, with its front columns going into the eastern sea and those in the rear into the western sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise." Surely he has done great things. 21 Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice Surely the LORD has done great things. 22 Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
23 Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.
28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls."
There is a lot said in this passage of scripture about God's mercy and his love for His people. In verse 22 it talks about the autumn rains in righteousness and abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains that will be a harvest. In a spiritual sense, the reign of the Spirit of God will bring a harvest of Salvation and repentance to the land. When the Holy Spirit is reigning down and flooding our souls, we should begin to see new believers sprouting up everywhere. Isn't that what happens after the winter rains? The seed in the ground begins to shoot through the soil and things seem to come to life in the spring. I believe this is what it will look like in the Spirit.
Joel 2:28 and 29 describe what will happen when the Holy Spirit is poured out on all men and women. They will begin to prophesy and see visions, young and old, men and women. No one will be exempt from this glorious season of harvest.
Chapter 3 concludes this book. Verse 9 tells the Holy people to prepare for war. There is no doubt that war must take place inorder for them to see the victory that is to come. Verses 17 &18 says, "Then you will know that I, the Lord your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. 18 In that day the mountains willd drip new wine (A thought: those redeemed by the blood of Jesus*), and the hills will flow with milk (A thought: living a life nourished by God's Word*); all the ravines of Judah will run with water(A thought: Living Water*). A fountain will flow out of the Lord's house and will water the valley of acacias." (Remember Ezekiel 47?)
Are you currently in the midst of a season that the "locust swarm" has devoured everything? Do you feel the spiritual battle going on within your soul? Does it seem as though the residue of life has left you with nothing but ash and filth? Don't loose hope. He is the God who will restore what the locusts have eaten. He is the God who reigns down and yields a harvest of new wine and oil. He is the God who removes shame and disgrace. Trust Him in the desert because when He reigns, He pours!

Monday, May 25, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - M'm! M'm! Bad!

Like a good bowl of soup or stew that hits the spot, this short story in 2 Kings, chapter 4, verses 38 to 41 is that kind of story. It's says so much for such a short story. This reminded me of words we speak. It is subtitled in my Bible as "Death in the Pot." 

"And Elisha came again to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land. And as the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, "Set on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets."One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it. He said, "Then bring flour." And he threw it into the pot and said, "Pour some out for the men, that they may eat." And there was no harm in the pot." 

You might ask, "what does this have to do with words?" This was my observation of this story. In verse 38, it says there was a famine in the land. I believe famine can represent us when we are not reading God's Word daily and especially not reading it for ourselves. You can't live off of preaching only. So many Believer's don't read because they don't understand the Bible. It reminds me of when I was introducing my children to table foods. They didn't like it at first, but the more I kept serving it to them, they began to develop a taste for those foods. So it is with reading the Bible. 

Elisha tells one of his servants to prepare some stew for them. The servant uses vines, herbs and gourds to put into the stew without knowing what they were (ignorance and illiteracy). Then he served them to the sons of the prophets. Now this servant had no idea what he was cooking, but after eating it, the men realized it was poisonous. The men cried out saying there was "death in the pot". As I began digesting this, the Holy Spirit began to show me that like food that becomes apart of our bodies after eating, so do the words that others speak to us. What are others serving you, when it comes to words and is it poisonous to your spirit? What music do you listen to? What do you watch on t.v.? What movies do you see? What kinds of books are you reading? All these are snacks and meals that we ingest everyday. Proverbs 18:21 says "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat it's fruit." Whether we recognize it or not, we do live on good and bad words, whether we receive them by what we are listening to or by watching or reading. On second thought, what are you serving others?

Elisha responds, by telling them to bring flour and pour it in the stew. That would seem a little strange to put flour in it. But that is when I recognized the importance of that ingredient. Isn't flour the main ingredient for making bread? In John 6:48 Jesus said "I am the Bread of Life!" I believe that flour is a representation for Jesus and he is life. Only Jesus overcame death! 

I want to encourage you to be cautious of what you allow into your spirit. Even out of ignorance, negativity, gossip, curses, etc., those words become apart of who we are. You are what you eat. But know that if you are in the Word of God daily, (it is our daily bread) it will absorb any words of death that might be served to you. As you read the Word of God pray that you will receive every morsel that God wants to feed you. Be more aware of what you are being served each day. Spend more time nourishing your spirit on the Word of God. This is a life changing meal. As the an old Campbell's soup slogan says, "Good for the Body. Good for the Soul." God's Word is that and more, it's just M'mmmmm good!

Monday, March 2, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - "Do" teronomy or "Do Not" eronomy

I love the book of Deuteronomy. It is one of the five books of the law that Moses wrote. Where it is positioned in the Bible, it sums up Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. It is a shortened version of the "do's" and "don'ts" of the three other books. I noticed how often the words do and do not appear. As a parent of teenagers who are learning to drive, it reminds me of the rules that have been set for the road. I often tell them that the rules aren't just for them, but the other drivers too. Sometimes other drivers break the rules and the consequence is a collision which are sometimes a fatal. The rules have been given to not only protect you, but to protect other drivers as well. I always tell them to be alert for others.  I think that is what God is telling the Israelites in the book of Deuteronomy.

Towards the end of the book, Moses concludes with the blessings if you fully obey the law that has been given and it is so encouraging. It is found in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. It reads, "If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. 4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. 5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. 6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. 7 The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. 8 The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. 9 The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you. 11 The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you.12 The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them. "It doesn't get more encouraging than that. If anything, this passage should ignite the enthusiasm to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

On the flip side, Moses then writes the consequences of what will happen. It only took 14 verses to explain blessing, but it takes 53 verses to explain the curse to come if any of the law is broken. Here is a sample of verses 15-19. "However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: 16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. 18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. 19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out."

I want to encourage you to read the rest of chapter 28. It will open your eyes to as to why some of us Believers just can't seem to move into the blessings that God has promised. Little compromises here and there begin to sneak in. When we compromise we "curse our promise". God is pretty clear on His expectations of us on the obedience issue. 

Deuteronomy 22:9 says, "Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crop you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled. " How many followers of Jesus tithe and then spend the rest of their money on things that are unpleasing to the Lord. Galatians 5:19-21 tells us not to be given to sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. As New Testament children of God, it is about inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven rather than the Promised Land. I am as guilty as anyone on compromise. Those times when I told God that I couldn't tithe because my car payment was due or because I just bought a new outfit and if I tithed it would put my checking account in the red. Or allowing certain music and movies to feed my spirit.

The good news is that under the new Covenant, I can ask for forgiveness and my compromise will no longer bring curses into my life. But there is a consequence to my action and sometimes I have to live out the consequence before the promise can take effect.
I challenge you today to take an inventory of your life. Jesus died to break the curse of this world so we might walk in blessing. Ephesians 1 is the new Covenant version of Deuteronomy 28. It is all about spiritual blessings. It says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:3-14) Walk in obedience and you will be blessed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Snakes On The Plain

 I've been pondering on this particular passage for the past few days. I think partly because I am guilty more often than not of discontentment and complaining.  I know it's not pleasing to the Lord, but why do I do it?

In Numbers 21, the Israelites defeat the Canaanites and are headed along the Red Sea around the land of Edom.  They begin to get discouraged along the way.  So as any discouraged follower, they start speaking against God and Moses saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (Numbers 21:5) God doesn't stand for "ungratefulness, complaining and whining." God then sent "snakes on the plain." Verse 6 says, "So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died." 

When the people realized that their tongues were speaking venomous words against God and his servant Moses, God had to help them understand that every time an accusation came from their mouths, it was the same as if being bitten by a snake.  You don't die instantly, it is slow and painful. This is how much our words affect our life.  James 3:8 says "But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison."

When the people realized what they had done, they went to Moses and repented.  Moses in turn prayed to the Lord to remove the snakes.  The scripture goes on to say "Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived." (Numbers 21:8 & 9)
I surely would have been one of those who would have had to look at the pole if I had not already died.  What is interesting to me is that the people were speaking out against God and Moses. How many times in our lives, especially those of us who are Christians, have talked against pastors, evangelists, those called to lead by God? We blame them for why we don't trust church leaders, church people and it's their fault why we stopped attending church.  We often give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, but when it comes to leaders, we complain about their actions. We are human and we all make mistakes. But sometimes, just as little children don't understand why parents make some of the decisions they do, God doesn't explain what He's doing. Sometimes that includes the leaders he places in our lives.

The passage says that they were on a route near the Red Sea going around Edom.  They didn't like the direction God was taking them.  How many times do we get frustrated with God at the direction our lives are going?  We often scream like an impatient child, "it's taking too long." I can say this because I'm the first to raise my hand at this. The more I ponder on this, I wonder if that is why so many of us Christians are stuck in our wilderness suffering through the poisonous words that have cursed our lives and have caused us suffering and pain.

I learned several years ago after reading this, that the medical symbol comes from this passage.  When I went searching for this image, it looked very similar to another image of salvation. God made a way to reverse the curse of the snake bite by having the people look at the pole with the bronze serpent.  This really made me think about the cross and how it is a similar picture for us.  The cross is a symbol of salvation.  Instead, Jesus bruised the serpents head and conquered death by going to the cross. The curse was reversed because of Jesus being willing.  Jesus didn't complain or whine about the direction his life had to take.  Why do we think we have right to complain about the direction God is taking us in our lives? I wonder if most of the sickness in the church is from the poisonous words we've spoken about one another and about those God placed in our lives to lead us?

I want to see the promises of God come to pass in my life.  Could it possibly be my own tongue delaying them? This short little passage has made a big imprint on my heart.  I need to forgive those I've accused of leading me the "wrong way" and blaming others for some of my decisions. But even more, asking God to forgive me for blaming Him just because things aren't to my preference.  Hebrews 12:2 says, "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 1 Peter 3:10 says, “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit."

What "snakes" have slithered their way into your life? What venom has gotten into your bloodstream that is affecting your health and attitude? Take a moment right now to look to the cross for forgiveness. Jesus said in John 3:14-15, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” Humble yourself, repent, receive healing and eternal life. An interesting thought is, the scripture doesn't say God removed the snakes from them, He only made a way for them to live.  There will always be snakes in our lives so keep your eyes on Jesus, he is the author and finisher of our faith.

Friday, February 6, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Whine and Dine

One time, I happen to catch a pastor on t.v. talking about whiney Christians. He said that sometimes he gets so tired of hearing people whine he asks them if they need some cheese. I half laughed at that because often times I'm guilty.

Today the Bible reading was from the book of Numbers. The chapter was 11 and the particular section was "Quail From the Lord." It starts with verse 4 "The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, 'If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost-also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!'" Wow, does that sound like me sometimes. The manna bread that fell from heaven, baked in the heavenly ovens was delivered to their door step everyday. I would imagine every morning as they came out of their tents it might have smelled like it smells walking down Main Street at Disneyland. I have a friend who researched and found a similar recipe that might have been what manna tasted like. Its was similar to a waffle cone, dense and sweet.

Then I came to verse 10. It says "Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled." Here God was giving them something that was special that could not be replicated. Think about it, the women didn't have to get up early to get the oven hot or coals and spend all morning baking bread for the family. The men didn't have to go out and grow the grain and harvest the grain needed to make the bread. It sounds so much like me. How ungrateful I am more often than not, that I can drive to the market and get what I need and it only takes me an hour of my week. And I still complain about going to the grocery store.

Verse 18 says "Tell the people: 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, "If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!" Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 But a whole month-until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it-because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying "Why did we ever leave Egypt?" They whined and dined. But probably not the way they had anticipated. Be careful what you ask for. How many times has God given me exactly what I wanted and after I got it, wasn't so happy about it? In fact, sometimes it becomes a burden in my life.

Then I read verse 33, "But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was names Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food." Ouch! I can remember one time in my life when I was blessed with a great little car. My great-grandmother told me to pick a car that I would like. We went to the dealer and she paid cash and I drove off the lot in a brand new car with no car payments. Other than replacing the battery, I never had a problem with that car. Then a few years later, a new model came out and I really wanted it. So I decided to trade in my payment free car for a newer model and now I was having to make car payments every month. Needless to say, that car ended up being a lemon. Because I didn't have any problems with the previous car, I opted out of the warranty. This car had problem after problem and because of it, put me deep in credit card debt.

I don't think God's feelings were hurt because the people got tired of the manna, I think it was more about their attitude. God is pretty clear on his expectations of our heart and character. Thankfulness is where He prefers us to be. Philippians 2:14 & 15 says, 14Do everything without complaining or 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." He is holy and whining and complaining doesn't line up in the holy category.

This passage hit pretty close to home for me. Down deep in my heart, I really don't want to be a whiner. I really need to watch how I talk from now on. Its so easy to point out and complain about the things in my life that aren't the way I would prefer. I need to be more thankful for the things the Lord has provided for me. Its more important for me to be grateful. Thats is what is pleasing to Him. Psalm 100:4 says to "Enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart and to enter his courts with praise." I don't think there will be whiners in Heaven.