Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Walking into the Lions' Den

“Now, when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.  Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”  Daniel 6:10

Lesson 6 of the Bible Study of the book of Daniel presents to us the familiar story of Daniel in the den of lions.  This is a story that Christians hear since they are young children in Sunday School, VBS and kid’s clubs all over the world.  However, now we are to study it as adults; and as adults, we are to pray for discernment so the Holy Spirit will transform this old story into solid food that will feed our soul and renew our minds.

In the video session, Beth Moore talked about ways in which we can react when faced with an emergency situation.  She pointed out that we can react either with panic, which makes us do the wrong thing; or we can become paralyzed, which makes us do nothing; or we can pray, which makes us do the power thing.  The only reaction that could bring a positive result is, obviously, to pray.  However, prayer as a first reaction doesn’t come easily.  We have to work at it.  We have to persist until prayer becomes our default.  As we see in the text above, after Daniel heard about the decree that had been issued, which stated that anyone found praying to any god or man other than King Darius in the next 30 days, would be thrown into the lions’ den; he reacted by doing what he always did.  He knew nothing else to do as a reaction to a difficult situation, but to get down on his knees and pray.  He didn’t go see the King, whom had appointed him as one of his administrators to try to convince him that the decree was wrong.  He didn’t plea for his life with the other administrators and satraps.  He didn’t try to hide his praying.  He did “just as he had done before.”  He went to his usual place and prayed.  He knew what was coming, but he did not back down.  He prayed and he let them throw him into the den of lions. 
The discussion in the session revolved around our reactions to emergencies.  The meditations where mostly about how we react when we suddenly find ourselves in a crisis.  This is the most common scenario, since not many people willingly walk themselves into a difficult situation.  However, sometimes, we know we are going to have to stick our heads into the lions’ den.  We see it approaching.  We know we are going to have to face a giant, and we know that we are going to have to do it alone with God.  How do we do this?  How do we react when we face the imminent assignment?  Do we tremble in fear and try to get out of it?  Do we ignore the call and pretend it is not our job to do this?  Do we try to bargain with God as to find a way to rationalize not doing it?  How do we take ourselves, by our own two feet, into the den of lions?  How do we come face to face with our giant?  How do we not cave under the pressure and melt under the fire of our fear? 
Daniel knew that remaining obedient to God would get him into the lions’ den, but he trusted in the Lord’s deliverance.  He prayed and gave thanks to Him, who had been faithful before and would be faithful again.  He probably recited all the many times in which the Lord had shown him His face and mercy; and he thanked Him for each and every one of those instances.    Likewise, David knew that it had come a point when he would be the one to challenge Goliath.  He refused the king’s armor and settled for what he knew best, the weapons of a shepherd, and the knowledge that The LORD who had rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue him from the hand of the Philistine. (1 Samuel 17: 37)  The assurance of God’s deliverance was enough for these two men to be fearlessly obedient.  The knowledge of God’s eternal faithfulness brought them strength to face the trial.  The memory of such faithfulness in their own lives brought them the comfort in the difficult hour. 
The Maker of the heavens and the Earth, is able to change and to use any situation for His purpose and for the good of those who put their trust in Him.  We know that He will either deliver us from, through or by the trials we face.  We know that He gives us the peace that surpasses all understanding and we know that He is with us always.  Therefore, we arm ourselves with what we know about Him.  We clothe ourselves in the knowledge of His unfailing love and reliable faithfulness, and we walk right into the den where the beast awaits.  By doing so, we will encounter the angel of the Lord in all His glory, and he will shut the mouth of the lion so we are able walk out of there unharmed.  The Lord will work out His purpose through us thanks to our obedience and He will reward us with His presence.  It might not turn out the way we expected it; but we can be sure that the way it turns out is better than we could’ve ever dreamed it would’ve. 
As we meet our lions and face our giants, let us remember Paul’s words in his lonely hour:
“16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  2 Timothy 4:17-18

Monday, July 25, 2011

Yard selling for the least of these

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’                 Matthew 25:37-40

I couldn’t stand the clutter in my house, so I decided to have a yard sale.   Since the purpose of the yard sale is to de-clutter my house, of course it made sense to have the yard sale at a different location.  One of my sisters-in-law graciously allowed me to invite myself to use her yard, and I spent two of the warmest July mornings of my entire life in the United States manning this yard sale last week.  I have to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I got to spend time with my sisters-in-law, my Mother-in-Law and some of my nephews and nieces.  My boys loved it too because they were able to play to their hearts content with their cousins.  So it was a hot, yes, but at least it wasn’t snowing! 

As the hours went by I watched “customers” come and go.  Some would browse lightly and leave with polite smiles that screamed  “There’s nothing but junk in here!”  Others would spend time in careful consideration, examining exquisite pieces of fine mass-produced trinkets, only to put them back on the table and move on to the next equally unimpressive item, finally concluding that they were not what they thought they were.  There would also be the “expert” looker who is always searching for the items we don’t have, like the gentleman who wanted World War II memorabilia. 

Occasionally, on the dry yard would stroll the sincere, hard-core yard selling enthusiast who seeks a weekly thrill as he or she peruses unexpected treasures with a twinkle in the eye.  This, of course, is my favorite kind of “customer,” because I know this one will buy something.  This type never went to a yard sale where he/she couldn’t find something to purchase.  Sure she bargains, offering less than what the colorfully marked price suggested, but to her I joyfully reply, “Yes, it’s yours!” 
This one knows that there is good all around us.  There is always something that someone else can use.  She usually makes purchases not only for her own use, but always has others in mind.  “This scooter would be perfect for little Johnny!”  “This chair is what my daughter needs in her patio.”  “My friend could use this TV in her camper.”  “This tree swing is great for my neighbor’s grandson.” 

It sure is a joy to appreciate the keen eye of those who love to uncover treasures in unexpected places, while having fun doing it. It is a joy because, as I think about them, I realize that many of these expert yard-sellers are fulfilling a calling to serve others by supplying their material needs - Teachers shopping for teaching aides for their undersupplied-classrooms;  Church members shopping for items for their church’s VBS and other children’s programs; Parents shopping for furniture for their children’s first apartment; Neighbors shopping for household items to help out neighbors in need. 

On and on, people stopped at our humble yard sale, hoping to find the things that will make someone else’s life a little brighter, more comfortable, easier, or a bit more bearable.  In their own unique way, they fulfill the Christian calling to love our neighbors with a cheerful heart.  They are doing it for the “least” of their brothers in a very special way.  The command is not to do it in a grand, spectacular or extravagant way.  The command is to do it!  And it is “you” who has to do it.  It is “I” who has to do it.  It is not the government through its many good-intentioned-but-fully-flawed programs.  It is “we” who have to do it, whichever way we can.  The reward will be reaped in heaven, when we hear from the lips of the Father, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23a)

After we wrapped up the sale on Saturday afternoon, we were exhausted.  It was worth the while, however, at least to me.  We laughed. We talked. We played. We complained. We shared time together as a family -  a rare treat anymore, and we made enough money to buy lunch.  I think I’ll do it again next year. 

Faith in Action

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19

Every time I read James 2:19 I tremble out of conviction.  I proclaim my faith openly to whoever would listen.  When it comes to practicing my faith, however, I am not so sure.  What evidence is there of my faith?  Is my faith a faith of actions or only of words?  James continues saying:  “20 you foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:20-22)  I do feel like a fool person indeed, very often, in my faith walk because of my inaction, my inability to take the necessary steps, my unwillingness to get out of my comfort zone, my lack of desire to do what I have to do, my lack of drive to do what is right in the eyes of God. 

I know that we are not saved by our works for “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God,” like Paul explains in Ephesians 2:8.  Grace is a gift, and as such, no amount of works we do could ever purchase it.  However, it is precisely because we are saved by grace, through our faith that we are called to do our part in the form of works.  In other words, our works are not going to save us, but they sure show that we are saved!  Our “good deeds” make our faith complete, like James pointed out.  Jesus wants us to experience complete faith.  He wants us to have abundant life!  Like He said it himself in John 10:10, He came to give us life to the fullest!  So it is because He gives us life to the fullest that we are called to share such fulfilled life with those He puts in our path. 

Many times, however, I miss the mark and I am content to live a faith within the safety of my comfort zone, without risking anything concrete other than the occasional oppositional remark.  I don’t really expose my life to the dangers of Christianity in action.  I don’t evangelize the Godless.  I don’t expose myself to dangerous places for the purpose of bringing the Gospel to those who need it most.  I don’t even share my faith at my work or with those in my family who are lost, let alone with strangers in the sidewalk as I go to a baseball game in the city.  In reality, when I think about it, my faith is not evidenced by many actions at all.  It is mainly a faith of private words. 

I am nothing like the missionary family that spoke at our church last Sunday about how they are starting a ministry in one of the most dangerous areas outside Guatemala City.  Unlike them, I would never, willingly, take my kids to live in a place where they could be in danger, for the purpose of spreading the Word.  I am a creature of comfort.  I pray for safety and prosperity for me and my loved ones.  I love this country where God placed me in my early twenties and I pray He would never take me away from here again.  But then, sometimes I sit back and ponder, compared to this missionary family, how abundant is my life?  The Lord has blessed me abundantly, no doubt about it.  But the blessing of being able to see and touch the reality of Christ in our lives, as those who risk getting out of the boat experience it, will never be mine unless I do too step out of my comfort zone one way or another.  It doesn’t mean that God only blesses missionaries.  But I do believe that the more we give of ourselves, the closer we get to experience God with us.  After all, “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

He wants us to have an abundant life.  He is the everlasting God.  The Creator of the ends of the world, and He renews our strength.  He wants us to soar on wings like eagles.  He won’t let us grow weary or faint no matter how much we run or walk. (Isaiah 40:28-31)  He equips us with everything we need to get out of our little bubbles and begin to do His work right here where He has planted us.  He doesn’t call us all to be missionaries abroad; however, He does call us all to be missionaries and spread His Word and work for His Kingdom wherever we are.  It is a frightening proposition, I know, but as we also know, “there is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18)  When we received Christ as our Lord and Savior, His Holy Spirit came to dwell in us and He is not a spirit that makes us slave to fear.  He is the Spirit that makes us sons and daughters of the Most High God! And by this Spirit we can call Him Daddy! (Romans 8:15) And our Daddy is always with us, so whom then shall we fear?

Let’s then make a decision to put our faith to action today.  I don’t know how this is going to be put into practice, but I know that He will let us know.  Let’s show our faith by our actions of love.  The Holy Spirit will grow the love in our hearts.  Therefore, I believe that if we start acting in obedience to Him who calls us; and we keep praying, the Holy Spirit will transform our acts of obedience into actions of love as He grows His love into our souls until it is love what moves our faith to action. 

Let’s think about this and pray that we are not afraid anymore to do what is right.  He walks with us and He holds our hands.  May He make our faith complete!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Test everything and hold on to the good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1

How can we uncover a counterfeit?  How do we unmask the one who is not really from God? How do we test the spirits?  In 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Paul tells us that we are to “test everything” and “hold on to the good.”  We are to test everything because we are surrounded by false prophets who come to us in “sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)  We face the task of having to unmask the counterfeit at all times. “The devil will try to mislead you and will show himself as being the truth,” as we read Paul reminding us in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, and no wonder, “for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness." 

The way to do it is by matching everything we hear/read against the Word. 
It is indeed a daunting task which suggests knowledge of Scripture, time for meditation, and discernment of the truth.  Sometimes we just don’t have the time or a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible at our fingertips.  Maybe someday we would be able to get Bible software inserted directly into our brains for easy access, but until then, we are left with having to read it and let it dwell in our hearts one bit at a time.  However, all who are of Christ know the truth, and the truth is always with us, and the truth sets us free! (John 8:32)  This is why John tells us in his first letter, chapter 2, verse 20 that we have the “anointing from the Holy Spirit, and all of us know the truth.”  John then continues with the most powerful, the quickest and the most effective way to test the spirits, when he said that the liar is “the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ.  Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 22-23)

There it is then.  The easiest way to uncover the counterfeit, the false prophets and false prophesies is to ask the Jesus question:  Who do you say that I am? (Mark 8:29)  Ask this question to yourself, to others, to everything you hear and read.  The answer to this key question will give you the best indication of whether the spirits you are testing are of God or of evil.  After all, we do live in the middle of a spiritual warzone, “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)

Friday, July 15, 2011

God Moments at Unexpected Times

A couple of nights ago, after we had just put our Dylan to bed, I immediately immersed myself in my web-browsing-evening-routing.  The excursion was a brief one; however, since not a full minute later, Dylan came out of his bedroom and started calling me to go to his room to “see something.”  I’m pleading with him to just go to bed or even just tell me what it was. “Use your words,” I told him, hoping I didn’t have to get up and “go see.”  He wouldn’t have any of it.  So, reluctantly, I got up, grunting all the way there,  hands on my hips, I stood in his doorway waiting to “see,” only to hear him say, “see mama, that’s the song…that’s your favorite song that we hear in your radio, in the car, you and me!  Remember? See?”  Of course I could “see” it.  It was indeed one of my favorite songs playing on the radio, which we leave on tuned-in to the Christian radio station in his room every night while he falls as sleep.  At that moment I realized I had just had a God moment.  Needless to say, I felt terribly guilty for thinking my boy was being just a pest.  I thanked him for “showing” me, tucked him back in bed and as I walked away from his room, I could hear him trying to sing along to the tune of “You love me anyway, O how you love me.” 

God had used my little persistent boy to touch me when I least expected it.  I was not going through any particularly spiritual moment at the time.  All I was seeking was to sit, chill and relax in front of my favorite news blogs, check my e-mail and maybe even see what was going on in the world of Facebook!  Nothing grandiose or illuminating, I was just looking forward to some down time.  His timing is not my timing, but His timing surely is perfect.  When He wants our attention, He uses all sorts of things and situations.  He catches our eye and makes us focus on Him at whatever time is convenient for Him; and He does it in a way that we have no choice but to look at Him and listen to what He has to say.  All we have to do is leaf through Scripture and we find example after example of people whose attention centered on God after He came knocking at the most extraordinary moments and places. 

He called on middle aged shepherds.  Remember Moses?  He was tending his father-in-law’s flock when, there!  A burning bush calling out his name!  How about Jonah?  God sure caught his attention alright!  Jonah refused to do the will of God and God put him in a “time-out” so he’d have plenty of uninterrupted time to think about what he needed to do. 
In other passages we see our Lord inviting Himself over to the house of short-little tax collectors for an unexpected dinner party.  “Zacchaeus, you come down!”  Other times He used the least ideal of circumstances to reveal the most astounding truth.  For instance, I don’t think John went to the island of Patmos looking for a beach resort and some quiet time to write a book. 

God revealed Himself to all these people in the Bible in astonishing ways and at unbelievable locations, precisely because He knows that the unexpected always catches our attention.  And He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, which means, He still does!  He can and does use anything and anybody to speak to us.  The amazing thing is that when He calls, there is not much more for us to do than to listen.  Even in the middle of our hectic and crazy lives, He always finds a way to catch our attention, and it is always for a good reason.  Can we recognize Him in the unexpected?  Can we “see” Him calling?  I bet we can!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In the Morning

One day, early in the morning after my husband and my older son were gone, and my younger son was still asleep, I prayed, face down on the floor for my dearest friend who had just felt a lump in her breast 2 days ago.  I couldn’t get her out of my mind.  She was miles away from me and I couldn’t go and share a comforting cup of coffee with her (well, I don’t drink coffee, but I would have shared some nice cold raspberry tea) or hold her hand or even go with her to the specialist.  “All I could do is pray” I told myself; and I instantly regretted using that expression.  All I can do is pray?  What am I talking about?  Praying is not “all I can do,”  praying is what I HAVE to do.  So face down on the hardwood floor of my bedroom, I called upon the Lord.  He is certainly able and if it is His will, my friend will be fine.  I rest assure in His Omnipotence.  When I was done praying, I read my devotional for the day and it directed me to go to Psalm 5, and it was verse 3 which caught my attention: 
 “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”  Wait a minute!  What?  Did I write that myself?  I couldn’t believe it!  This verse expressed absolutely everything that had gone on just a minute earlier, and it expressed my current circumstance perfectly!  I sat in awe at the reality of God.  He certainly is the God of the details.  He knows our comings and goings, and He never lets go of us once He’s got us. 

I felt the urge to send an e-mail to my friend and I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me the words that He wanted her to hear/read.  I typed verse 3 of Psalm 5, but instead, the Spirit lead me to Psalm 121: 1-2  “I lift my eyes up to the hills, where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  On my way to Psalm 121, however, I ran into Psalm 55:22 , “Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you.”  I typed both quotes and sent them to her. 

When I got done with the e-mail, I continued to ponder how great and powerful our God and His Word are.  In times of trouble, our faith in Him becomes our shield so we can be protected, but His Word is the powerful and mighty sword with which we strike the enemy and make it retreat.  Life sure is a constant battle against the attacks of the enemy which come to us in many different forms.  Sometimes he attacks us with uncontrolled anxiety, paralyzing fear or unrighteous anger.  Many times doubt and disbelief drawn us.  It doesn’t matter what shape his attacks take, they are ever present and we must defend ourselves against them.  The problem comes when we don’t know Scripture.  If we don’t have His Word we don’t have the sword.  We are unarmed and defenseless; left to cover ourselves with the shield of faith, withstanding the blows of the aggressor without weapons to strike him back. 

We do have victory in Him and the road to victory is mapped out in His Holy Word.  The Bible presents a full armory complete with every specific weapon destined for each specific battle.  It is up to us to appropriate it for our use.  God could, indeed, supernaturally give us His Word any time He desires.  For all I know, He can even write it on the wall for us to read.  He is Almighty so I have no doubt He would do it if He needed or wanted to.  What a mighty show of His glory that would be. In my experience, however, that hasn’t happened to me yet.  I rely on His promises contained in the Bible, one of which is that, “If you [I] believe, you [I] will receive whatever you [I] ask for in prayer.”  (Matthew 21:22)

As it happened, my dear friend did end up testing positive for breast cancer.  This reminded me that sometimes the answer to our prayer is no.  God many times says no to our requests because He has a better way in mind.  After all, His ways are not our ways, right?  As always, His way was indeed better than mine.  My friend endured like the champion she is and now, over two years after her diagnosis, she is cancer free.  Her life is a beautiful example of the artwork of our God.  He has done marvelous things in her life for all to see.  She has become a blessing to all who meet her and her soul is focused on the eternal.  God showed Himself to her through her illness and He is using her in mighty ways.  She is fine.  That part of the payer was answered with a big yes.  God, once again, used something bad for good.  He always works out all things together for good for those who love Him, and have been called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28)  Well, I can see my dear friend has been called according to His purpose to do great things for Him, and so have we.  Through the power of prayer and His Word, we will become His instruments for His kingdom, regardless of the circumstance. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Extraordinary Lives

This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. (Daniel 5:12 in the New American Standard Bible)

This is the description that the Queen of Babylon gave to the King on the night he saw the writing on the wall.  Daniel had long fallen into obscurity in the Babylonian kingdom.  He was out of the limelight and way advanced in years.  His reputation, however, was still intact, and alive in the minds of those who’ve paid attention. 

In reading this impressive list of Daniel’s qualifications, the specific one that sticks out to me personally is the fact that the Queen recognized that Daniel was a man with an “extraordinary spirit.”  He was indeed a holy vessel.  The Lord had consecrated Daniel for His purposes.  He made Daniel holy, set apart, to be His valuable tool for His kingdom, reserved to do works of eternal value.  He gave Daniel His Spirit and it showed.  Even pagans could recognize the Divine in Daniel.  He was a temple where the Spirit of the Most High God dwelled, and it was evident even to the eyes of the depraved queen of the most corrupt empire of its time.  Indeed, Daniel did not “hide his light under the bushel.”  

Today, those who have declared Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are people found to have an extraordinary spirit in them too.  It doesn’t matter if we don’t feel particularly extraordinary.  I’m sure neither did Mary, the mother of Christ.  It doesn’t matter if we have used our vessels to contain less than holy causes.  King David was not an example of consistent good behavior either.  It doesn't matter if we think we are too old.  Abraham, Sarah, and Moses were no spring chickens, and look at what God did through them.  It doesn’t matter if we think we are too insignificant.  Chances are fishermen like Peter, John, James and Andrew didn’t think they were all that either.  It doesn’t matter if we are among the fatherless of this world.  So was Queen Esther.  It doesn’t matter if we feel unworthy.  So did Paul and pretty much all the men and women in the Bible which God used to accomplish His holy plan.  

The Maker of the heavens and the earth can use each and every one of us for His cause.  No matter how lowly we consider ourselves, the blood of Christ cleanses us and prepares us to be used by Him for His eternal purposes.  We too are holy vessels.  Those who have received Christ in their hearts as Lord and Savior become temples of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)  We too become tools in the hands of the Master, vessels that God uses to pour out His blessings to others, holy, set apart, consecrated for His purpose and for His use. (2 Cor. 1:21-22)  We too have in us The Extraordinary Spirit, destined for special purposes, “made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Tim. 2:20-21)   

The question that remains is, don’t we want to act as if we were indeed extraordinary, uncommon, holy?  Don’t we want to allow the Extraordinary Spirit that dwells inside of us work and produce His fruit in us and be recognized as children of the Most High God?  Don’t we want to do something extraordinary for Him who has set us apart?  I never thought about asking God to allow me to do something extraordinary for Him and for His Kingdom; but now I’m thinking, why not?  All He requires is willingness of heart, and He’ll do the rest.  All we need is to be willing to be used by Him, as His holy instruments, and He’ll find a way to use us.  It is scary because once we are willing, He will use us; and the extraordinary might be too intimidating for us.  Living extraordinary lives for Christ exposes us to the world and makes us vulnerable.  We would no longer be able to hide our light.  We would no longer be able to compartmentalize our Christianity, or leave it behind at church or at home, once we go out the door.  Living extraordinary lives for God means that we wear our Christianity wherever we go, become comfortable in it and let it become our identity until everyone around us notices that there is something different about us. 

It is scary indeed, but it is also possible.  It is possible with surrender and trust.  Surrender to His will by obeying His calling.  Trust that He will be with us along the way.  It is His plan.  We are just mere instruments.  We are not the designers.  He has come up with the plan since before we were woven together in our mothers’ womb.  His eyes saw our unformed bodies; [and] all the days ordained for us were written in His book, before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139) So was His plan for us!  He is our portion and He will provide everything we need for our journey into extraordinary lives.  He will prepare us and give us the experiences we need as the plan unfolds.  It is all part of it, our fears, our anxiety our doubt, our troubles, our trials, our tears, our laughter, our grief and our joy.  He uses every bit of it all.  They all play a part in the developing of our life-long plan to live our lives for Him guided by His Extraordinary Holy Spirit.

I am comforted by the knowledge that He has it all figured out.  All I have to do is say yes, dive in and let Him be God in my life.  When you think about it, it is extraordinarily simple!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nothing is too hard for Him

“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17 NIV
A few days ago, I was overcome by grief as I read an entry in our church’s e-mail prayer chain.  It was about this young woman, mother of 2 pre-school-aged children, who had been diagnosed with some kind of brain tumor.  When she went in for surgery, the tests showed that she had more than one tumor in the brain plus other tumors in the liver and lungs.  I felt devastated for this poor woman, particularly because it wasn’t clear if she knew the Lord either.  I couldn’t help but thinking about my own immortality and my own young children.  How do we overcome hardship such as this?  There is so much pain in the world.  There are so many debilitating illnesses that rob us from productive, fun-filled and happy lives.  There are so many social illnesses that rob us from living peaceful and contented lives.  There is so much darkness in the world.  This darkness surrounds us and envelopes us to the point that sometimes it may seem that the light has been extinguished.  That is the precise moment, however, when we must stop and rebuke all such thoughts. 

We are the children of the Most High God, “In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (Eph 1:5)  We are His children and as such, through Jesus Christ, we too have overcome the world, as Jesus himself tells us in John 6:33:  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  And yes, the world is wrapped up in darkness, and at times that darkness appears impenetrable and terribly blinding.  However, we have the light in us, because He, who is light, perfect light, dwells in us.  The Holy Spirit of the Light of the world is united with our spirit, becoming one when we accept and receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and that light shines in us, in the midst of the darkness that terrifies us. 

This is the truth that we must remember, then, at our moments of fear and anxiety, that though we will have troubles in this world, He has overcome the world and so have we.  Our troubles, Praise the Lord, may not be as terrifying as those of the poor young woman in my prayer chain; but they sure are defining to our own personal realities.  Regardless of what we are going through today, let’s remember that our God is Almighty.  Our God is sovereign, and nothing is too hard for Him. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

We are victorious!

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through
our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest...” (Matthew 11:28) were the words of our Lord Jesus to those who followed Him when He walked upon this earth; and to those of us who still follow Him today.  This is one of His eternal promises.  How hard it is to let our souls be at rest, however.  In the midst of our busy lives, our convoluted world, our messed up society, we fear and we struggle and we become weary just watching the evening news.  How are we to find rest when our children are under constant attack and we fear they will not know the way they should go, even after our tireless efforts to educate them in the faith?  Though we know in our minds it is a promise, and we believe our God is faithful, we can’t help but wonder if we ever will experience such rest. 

Scripture, however, also clearly teaches us that our God, not only promised His children that He would comfort us when the burdens of this world seemed unbearable.  He also promised us that we would have power, authority and ultimate victory over our enemies, as we see in Luke 10:19:
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy…”  This is a statement to remember at all times, but especially when we feel the blows of the enemy on our back.  Yes, on our back, for he is a coward, who stabs the children of God on the back, when our guards are down, when we are not paying attention, and when we are immersed in doing God’s work.  That might seem a controversial statement.  However, the enemy attacks us the hardest when we are focused on our mission.  When we are in our most productive time for the kingdom of God, the enemy strikes us with his dagger, sometimes straight to the heart, churning it inside of it until he sees us defeated, until he succeeds in making us fail at our work. 

That is why the enemy attacks us while we are doing something significant for the Lord…to see us quit, to see us abandon it.  This is the battle ground of the enemy of our souls, and unfortunately, he wins many battles in there.  The only way to not let him win is by knowing that we are victorious from the beginning.  By knowing and believing that we have already won the war, even when he wins the occasional battle; we derail the enemy’s objective of seeing us quit on God.  Nothing pleases the enemy more than seeing a child of God down, deep down in a pit of defeat.  On the other hand, nothing mortifies him more than seeing that same child of God take stand; and from that pit, call on His Lord to his rescue; and see this child of God climb out of that pit in his God’s loving arms.  Nothing works even better at defeating the attacks of the enemy than to recognize them the moment they occur That way we can take our stand right there and then, before his back stabbing has any effect; before we find ourselves in the pit. 
We must, therefore, be alert at all times, so when we feel ourselves deviating from God’s plan for us, from what the Bible instructs us as godly living, from what we know God has asked us to do; we take our stand against the enemy and firmly say, “stay behind me Satan,” “He who has overcome the world dwells in me.   He who is victorious, lives and He lives in me.  Therefore, I am victorious too and you have no power over me.  I am in God’s hands.  I am God’s child and you must flee.”  Trust in Him who lives in you and voice your stand against the enemy.  You will see him flee in terror.  He is relentless, though, and he will be back.  It is our job then to be alert at all times and aware that he wants us defeated.  We must know that the enemy wants to separate us from God and he knows what buttons to push.  Surrender your all to Christ and pray without ceasing that the Holy Spirit will guide you, and keep you aware.  In the meantime, continue standing on the Solid Rock.
Jesus concluded His promise in Luke 10:19 saying, “…nothing will harm you.”  And as stated in Romans 8:31 “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”  This is when the “rest” that Jesus Christ offers us comes to our weary and burdened souls.  This is when we find the peace that surpasses all understanding.  When we believe in our victory through Him who lives in us, and exercise our power against the attacks of the enemy, we find perfect rest in Him regardless of the circumstances that surround us.

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

“Mama, why can’t we see God?”

After spending a gorgeous, but very hot summer afternoon at the park followed by a rushed grocery shopping trip at a desperately crowded store, my two sons and I climbed in my hopelessly messy economy-beat-up car.  I still had to go fill up with over-priced gas to then go home and fix dinner.  Needless to say, I was running a bit low on more than gas.  As I was taking a turn to get out of the store’s parking lot, I hear my 5 ½ year old ask me, “Mama, why can’t we see God?”  Of course, like any normal, flustered Mother would do, I kindly replied, “WHAT?”  hoping that I had not heard him right, only to hear him repeat the same precious question in his delightfully childish voice, “why can’t we see God?  I knew I was in trouble then.

I managed to muster a very complicated answer trying to explain the mystery of the Trinity and how we will see God when Jesus returns since Jesus is the physical representation of God.  Then, my 9 year-old said, “yes, I think the only one who has ever seen God was Moses; but I think he didn’t really see Him, he just was in His presence or something.”  By then, my head was spinning and I was glad that I had finally pulled into the gas station.  The conversation, obviously, ended abruptly and we went home; but the thought remained.  My young son’s question lingered in my mind; but mostly, I felt a nagging feeling of inadequacy.  I did not provide my little boy with an appropriate answer and that really bothered me.  That should never happen.  We are commanded to “…revere Christ as Lord.”  And to  “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that [we] have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)  I tell you, I revere Christ as Lord with all my heart; but I was not prepared to give any answer to my little inquisitive boy; and I felt ashamed.  I don’t want to be caught off guard again.  How do I get prepared?

After days meditating about this, the Holy Spirit was my only reply.  It is only the Holy Spirit who can provide the correct answers to the questions others may ask us.  And ask they will!  It is only by consciously and deliberately putting ourselves in the hands of the Holy Spirit and by asking Him to speak for us and use us to communicate His message to those inquiring souls, that we may have a chance at providing a coherent response.  We must never depend on our own knowledge or believe that we have the wisdom to respond on our won.  Only He can reveal Himself to those He chooses.  Humility is the key in this respect.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we give up and say, “well, I got nothin’ to do here…God will give me the words when & where I need them.”  I don’t know about you, but God is not in the habit of speaking in an audible voice to me personally.  He does speak to me all the time, however!  He speaks to me through His Holy Word contained in the Bible.  I firmly believe that studying the Bible is the greatest tool we have at our disposal “for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)  Therefore, He will use His own Word to aide us in our conundrums.  That is not to say, however, that God cannot just whisper in our ears in His own voice anytime He thinks that is what we need.  But I believe that a very effective way to hear His voice in our time of need is by knowing His Word and memorizing as much of it as possible so, when we are on the spot, it can come back to rescue us. 

I also believe that constantly praying and asking God for wisdom and discernment is crucial.  “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  He reveals deep and hidden things,” says Daniel in chapter 2: 21-22.  We might not consider ourselves very wise or discerning right now, but the moment we begin to ask for wisdom and discernment we become wiser right away.  Like King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived.  Why?  Because he asked for it!

Finally, I also believe that there will be many questions we won’t ever be able to answer no matter how much we study and pray.  Some of the mysteries of God are meant to remain mysterious for as long as we call this earth our home.  After all, like C.S. Lewis said in the Chronicles of Narnia:  “he is not a tame lion.”  What kind of a God He would be if we, mere created beings, could explain everything about Him who created us?  …Now, try to answer that!