Saturday, August 24, 2019

Peace of My Heart

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." - Colossians 3:15

This verse has truly become my daily medicine. As some of you know, I have been on an "emotional eating weight loss" journey. Forgiveness is the key to our health, I am convinced. I say journey because there are days that seem that I will never reach my destination.  On my birthday over a year ago, I knew that I needed to get my emotional life in order. I weighed the most I had ever weighed and with family history of heart disease and diabetes, I knew that I really wanted to change that in my life. I wanted to break the generational cycle.

I posted a blog about the journey of "The Gain of Losing the Emotional Weight." I know it was God speaking to my heart as this past year has stirred up many emotions. The first with the passing of my dad which was the beginning of a different kind of year. I honestly believe that is why God had me start it prior to my dad's passing. He knew I would need to be aware of my emotions and eating. It started the year of "firsts" which was celebrating holidays, birthdays, anniversaries without him. It was walking with my mom as she grieved. It was moving a church and dad not here to celebrate. It was the process of moving my mom out of her house of 50 years. It was starting a new position at work. (My dad would have been so proud.) My in-laws moved to New Hampshire at the same time we were moving my mom. And most recently my son moved away. All these things stir up emotions and I see now why it was important for me to get on top of my emotional eating. What was strange is I still had not really "cried" over my dad's passing, which has had me concerned. I had been speaking  Colossians 3:15 over me throughout the day.

With all of this, recently I noticed that I wasn't feeling well. I am not one to go to the doctor! In fact I avoid it at all costs! But I was really concerned as I took my blood pressure and saw that it was way above normal.  I told my doctor what the past year had been like and that I was concerned that I hadn't cried yet.  She told me that it could be the back up of grief and stress that I was holding onto. She decided to do some blood work to see what was going on. I was so nervous that this caused my blood pressure to spike even more. I told her I had "white coat syndrome." I was even ready to start taking blood pressure medication. She was pleased with my weight loss and so was I!As I sat in the waiting area to get my blood work done, I kept speaking Colossians 3:15 over me. I prayed the blood of Jesus to cleanse my blood. 
That night, I woke up at 12:00am and my mind flooded with worry.  I couldn't sleep so I got up an went down stairs. I opened my email and my results were already completed.  My curiosity got the best of me. I decided to read my results.  I was completely surprised at what I saw.  Not only did my blood work come back good, it was even better than my results 3 years ago! I was completely surprised! And there wasn't anyone for me to tell because it was midnight. 
The next week I had to go back for another blood pressure reading. Again, I kept speaking Colossians 3:15 over me. This reading was different from the others as I had to sit quiet in a room all by myself for 5 minutes. After taking three readings, the nurse came in and said, "I have good news." I sat up and said "good news?"  She said, "yes, your average reading was 127/80!" I was overwhelmed at this and knew that it was Jesus healing my heart.
I am HEALED physically truly because of my obedience to what God was asking me to do over a year ago. I am truly convinced that dealing with forgiveness is key to our health.  So many are sick with chronic diseases.  The television is  full of prescription medication advertisements. Social media is an example of all the unhealthy anger and resentment.  If people are not forgiving, it's no wonder we are so sick. Especially the Body of Christ. I talk to so many Christians who are dealing with illnesses and I am believe it's because we haven't truly dealt with our forgiveness issues.  We say say we have, but if we turned the light on in our souls we'd find things that have rooted and are hiding in the corners. I can only say this from experience. We have the Holy Spirit in us which is the greatest power on this earth.  Not forgiving, even the littlest things is like kryptonite against the Holy Spirit. And yes, the enemy doesn't want you to find those little things because it keeps us powerless.

I wanted to share this peace of my heart that only Jesus could heal.  There was no other way for me to explain this.  By inviting him into this journey, I truly believe that is why my blood is clean and my heart is at peace not only spiritually, but physically.  I want to encourage you, that if you have any kind of illness that is brought on through stress, give it to Jesus and ask him to help you. Psalm 51:10 says "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me."  Allow him to search your heart and clean out anything that might be hiding and making you sick. Once you have forgiven the person or issue, bless them or it and seal it with gratitude. Thankfulness seals the deal.  God has called us to peace as Colossians 3:15 says.  Let Him give you the "peace of His Heart."

Thursday, May 2, 2019

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: The Word IS God

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." (John 1:1-2). Recently I had the privilege of being a part of a Torah writing ceremony.  It was so interesting.  It takes about a year to hand write a Torah.  In this case, families from the congregation were invited to participate in writing one letter.  The scribe explains the letter and then has the participants hold the feather of the pen as he fills in the letter.  Our letter was from "Vayikrah" known as the book of Leviticus. Our letter was from Leviticus 1:2. The letter was Beit  which pictograph is "house or dwelling" and it's numeric value is two. It was so interesting how much detail is in the writing of the Torah, which is the Word of God.

After the writing portion was over, we were then ushered into a room of celebration.  We signed a document that will be placed with the Torah as having been a part of the writing and we had the honor of signing the wimpel.  A wimpel is Yiddish from a German word meaning "cloth" derived from old German meaning to "cover up or conceal."  It is made of linen and it seals up the Torah when it is stored. As I was signing the wimpel, it was like the light turned on and it it all came to life for me.

In the Gospel of John, the author uses the metaphor as Jesus being the "Word."  In the Gospel of Luke 2:7, it says "And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger..." Swaddling cloths were strips of linen used to wrap infants after birth.  In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, the authors write about the death of Jesus and how he was wrapped in clean linen and placed in the tomb. (Matthew 27:59-60, Mark 15:46, John 19:40). The Torah wrapped in linen is a picture of Jesus, whether he was lying in a manger or lying in the tomb, the bottom line, he IS the Word.  

This picture also goes along with a portion of the Sedar dinner at Passover. During dinner three Matzah bread are placed between three folds of a linen napkin and the middle piece is broken (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and is hidden somewhere. The Matzah is interesting as it has punctures and burn marks, which remind me of the "Bread of Life" being beaten for our transgression and bruised for our iniquities.  The fact that it was hidden away even represents Jesus being taken to the tomb. At the end of the dinner, the children are sent to find it.  Jesus said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16) The Matzah is reserved to the end as a dessert.  Much like the resurrection is sweet to mankind as Jesus conquered death and made a way for everlasting life.

The signs all point to Jesus.  Jesus said he is "the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). If you have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I want to invite you today to recognize that he IS the Son of God.  That he came to make a way to the Father and give you eternal life.  Remember I mentioned earlier that we signed our names on the wimpel?  When Jesus went to the cross, he signed your name on his hands. The only marks of humanity that he still carries are the nail prints in his hands. Isaiah 49:16 says "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands..." He's already paid the price and today you can have your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Revelation 21:27 says, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life." The Word came in the flesh to give us eternal life.  "...but the "Word" of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

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

A few years ago now, our women's ministry focused on friendships. The Lord gave me this word about the importance of relationships through the book of Ruth. I had the privilege of teaching this at our women's retreat that year. For those of you who were at that retreat, this will be a recap. For those of you who are new to our church family, this is the heart of our women's ministry that we call R.E.A.L. Women.

I have always thought Ruth's story was a nice story, kind of a Cinderella type story. But this time rather than look at it through the eyes of "the fair maiden meeting her prince charming," I read it this time as an example of an authentic relationship between women. I like to call it a "real-ationship." As I was reading it I discovered the four building blocks to a R.E.A.L. women friendship. R.E.A.L. being the acronym for respect (1 Peter 2:17), encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11), accountability (Proverbs 27:17) and love (1 Peter 4:8).

The first block being respect. In Chapter 1 verses 15-18 it says "'Look,' said Naomi, 'your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.' 16 But Ruth replied, 'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, bit ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.' When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her." Ruth obviously respected Naomi for the kind of life she lived. She respected her enough to want to follow her to a foreign land. In return, Naomi respected Ruth enough to allow her to go with her.

The second block is encouragement which is found in Chapter 2. Beginning with verse 2, Ruth says to Naomi, "Let me go to he fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor." Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter." 3 So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in the field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech." This man Boaz was a relative of Naomi's late husband. Most of know the end of the story. If Naomi had not encouraged Ruth to go to the field to pick the up the leftover grain, she would have never met Boaz. I look at encouragement as a form of blessing. Naomi was giving Ruth her blessing by encouraging her to go.

The pillar of accountability is found in the second portion of Chapter 2. After Ruth returns from spending the day in he fields, Naomi says beginning in verse 19 "Where did you glean today? Where did you work?" Blessed be the man who took notice of you!" She again encouraged Ruth to stay close to him. All those questions are the stepping stones to accountability. One might think Naomi was being nosey, but if she hadn't asked those questions, she would have never known that Ruth had been working in Boaz's field, who was her close relative.

In Chapter 3, Naomi tells Ruth to dress up in her finest clothes and put on perfume. To go to the threshing floor and wait until Boaz falls asleep and lie down at his feet. I believe this is another example of respect. Respect requires trust. Ruth had to trust Naomi enough to do this. Personally, I don't know if I could have done that. It's one thing to get all dressed up, but to lie down at the feet of a man you barely know would seem a bit odd. Yet Ruth did not even question Naomi's plan. She responded in verse 5 by saying "I will do whatever you say."

The last portion of Chapter 3 is another time when accountability is found. After Ruth returns from the threshing floor, Naomi she asks her how it went and what happened? Like most of us women, we want details.

But Chapter 4 clearly speaks of the fourth pillar of love. After Boaz marries Ruth in verse 14 it says "The women said to Naomi: 'Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew our life and sustain you in your old age. Four your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons has given him birth." Because of the real-ationship between these two women, not only one of them, but both of them were blessed far beyond their wildest dreams. Ruth found a husband and Naomi was now a grandma which I'm sure she never thought would come to pass since she lost both of her sons.

As I've thought about this for the past several days, I also thought about the idea of gleaning. I believe there is some hidden message there as well from God to us. Ruth was not an Israelite, she was a Moabite, a gentile. By allowing Naomi to lead her, who was an Israelite, Ruth found God and married an Israelite for a second time. But what I believe is symbolic here is the fact that after they had harvested the grain, she would go behind and pick up the left overs. It says she returned to Naomi with an ephah which is about 22 liters. Thats quite a bit of grain. Okay, stay with me here. Jesus referred to himself as the "bread of life". What is bread made from? Grain. Ruth didn't get the first round of grain, she got the left overs. By the time Jesus came on the seen, the Religious Leaders had been doing their jobs for so long, they missed "the bread of life." Jesus was giving the first portion to his people. So who got to receive the left overs when He wasn't recognized by the Pharisees? The Gentiles. It was after Jesus ascended to Heaven that the Gospel got out to the new group of people who wanted to hear about "the bread of life." Thus we now have Christians. When Jesus ascended to Heaven, he told the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations which is Jesus leaving the left over grain to feed the gentiles. (Matthew 28:19). To this day, people every where have the opportunity to glean from the life and death of Jesus.

Take some time today to think and pray about the real-ationships you have. Are they built on the foundation of Jesus and are the walls of respect, encouragement, accountability and love holding those friendships secure? God didn't mean for us to live our lives alone. God gave us the gift of relationships. Also, think about those relationships that are not yet built on Jesus, are you leaving some "grain" behind that they might taste and see that the Lord is good? When we are in healthy relationships, they help shape who we are. When we are in Godly relationships they keep us pressing to become more like Jesus.

Friday, April 19, 2019

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: Good Friday Thoughts

"Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice." Luke 23:34

Today we remember "the cross" and what it represents, forgiveness and redemption for all mankind. As I reflect on this past year on my journey of not only forgiving people and things throughout my life, but understanding the power in forgiveness. So many of us live cherishing our hurts and wounds that were inflicted on us, that often go all the way back to our childhood. Jesus physically endured being beaten and bruised to represent for ALL of us that we are forgiven of the hurts we have done against God. One of those hurts being the the hurt within the Church, also known as the Body of Christ. We who call ourselves Believers and followers of Christ hurt each other over and over, which is the same as when Jesus was beaten repeatedly. If Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us (Romans 8:34), I wonder how often he still says, "Father forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing."

As I reflect on this verse today, I am challenged in my own soul who have I not forgiven that keeps Jesus on the cross, so to speak. It breaks my heart when I see brothers and sisters "in Christ" treat each other disrespectfully. I find it interesting that in this same verse, it says "and the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice." That is very disrespectful and cold. Yet to some degree when we don't forgive that is how we treat what Jesus did for us at that day.

In the message, Eugene Peterson says that Jesus came and put on "Man clothes." They were gambling for his clothes. This also causes me to think about how we treat our salvation. Salvation is not by chance, it's by choosing. Many people call themselves Christians, but have not actually chosen Him to be their savior. They "gamble" at their salvation hoping they are saved and will make it to Heaven. We don't have to throw dice hoping for the right call for our salvation. All we have to do is "choose" Jesus, ask Him to forgive us and then in return, we forgive others. When we don't forgive others, it mocks what Jesus did for us on the cross. 

Today as you think about the cross and what it means to you. I would first ask you to think about whether you have "gambled" for your salvation or if you have truly chosen Jesus and salvation. Secondly, think about what Jesus has forgiven you for and then examine your heart and see where you have allowed unforgiveness to reign in the place where the Holy Spirit dwells. I pray this weekend as we celebrate The Resurrection of Jesus, that as we, The Body of Christ, forgive and bless one another and that the power of the Holy Spirit that rose Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11) will raise up the Body of Christ with power, Truth, wholeness and freedom. AMEN.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Everyday Women: The Widow of Zarephath

"The Widow of Zarephath: 1 Kings 17"- Everyday Women Bible Study

Who was this woman? We know her husband was dead and that she was now the head of her household. She was from the territory of Sidon (modern day Lebanon), which was the same region that Jezabel was from, so she was not a Hebrew woman. The people from Sidon worshipped Baal. This woman had a son, assuming he was not of age as he lived with her. She was a strong woman as she was found outside the city gate gathering sticks to make her last meal.

Elijah had been camping, so to speak at the brook in Kerith Ravine east of the Jordan River because of the drought the country was experiencing. When God told him to “go at once,” it would have been a couple of days journey to the Mediterranean coast. Elijah had just been supernaturally provided for during his time at the brook. Twice daily the ravens brought him bread and meat. When God told him to go to the widow, he didn’t think twice. God had provided for him first.

When Elijah found the widow she was preparing her last meal. She had lost hope of a future for her and her son. The prophet Elijah, shows up at the last moment and asks her for a drink of water. It’s often noticed, throughout the scriptures there are stories of people asking for a “drink of water.” For example, Abraham’s servant to Rebecca and Jesus with the woman at the well, just to name a few. Elijah, asks the widow for a drink, and during a drought no less, as she’s preparing to die. This is probably why she didn’t deny his request. But, Elijah goes even further by asking her for a small cake with the last of her flour and oil. Then what is left over to make something herself and her son. 1 Kings 17: 14 says “’For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’”

There are two parallels to this story. The first is that this is a picture of tithing. Elijah represented God. In Malachi 3:10 says “ Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” In those days, a tithe of seed and grain was given to God for future supply and provision. This was especially important during a season of drought. The second parallel to this story of God’s endless provision was in the wilderness with the Israelites of the manna, the forty-year supply of bread from heaven. (Exodus 16) What’s so interesting they were to gather an Omer of bread for each person in their tent. An Omer was one-tenth in dry measurement of an Ephah. We again see the tithe in this miracle. As we know tithe means one-tenth.

God, tithed his portion of bread for his children in the wilderness to sustain them until they arrived in the Promised Land. God was at work preparing for his greatest tithe to mankind, Jesus. John 6:50-51 says “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Jesus is the bread of life that sustains us daily in this life. He is our nourishment until the day we stand face to face and are received into our eternal home, the eternal Promised Land.

The second portion of this passage is when the widow’s son became ill and died. She felt she had done something wrong and that was why Elijah’s God took him from her. How often do we feel we've done something wrong and God is punishing us when we experience a trial or loss? This is the second miracle in Elijah’s ministry. He stretched out over the boy 3 separate times crying out to God to return his soul to him (1 Kings 17:21). We discovered that Elijah was an intercessor and that he didn’t give up after the first cry. The boy’s life returned to him. This passage concludes with “Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” 1 Kings 17:24. The widow had discovered a God who was a provider and a life-giver. He is a God of the supernatural. He still the same today as he was then. Who do you surround yourself with that encourages, prays and stands with you in times of trouble? You can invite Jesus to be your friend, he is the one seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for you (Romans 8:34). But God has also provided people to encourage and support. Find those who will stand with you in challenging times. Like this widow, it's God's desire for you to see him do supernatural miracles in your life. He sent Jesus to give us life and a life more abundantly (John 10:10).