Monday, February 28, 2011

A Testimony of God's Goodness

"So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”
18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Exodus 33:17-18

Well, this is a fun post to be posting on this fine Monday morning.  :)

I've shared a few times before how God has done quite a few different things for us, and for Andy as a result of his fingers being broken last fall.  It's been a long road, with different twists, turns, and different examples of God's love.

To begin with, Andy's fingers healed up more quickly than expected.  The doctors were amazed at how quickly those bones knit back together, and couldn't come up with any kind of explanation for it.  Of course, we know better, and know that God healed Andy's fingers quickly so that he could get back to a normal life.   During the healing process, God also did a work on them.  It turned out that Andy's fingers had not been perfectly straight in the first place, they were not totally normal.  Well, God straightened out his not-quite-straight fingers so much that when the bones healed, the result was fingers that were better than when he started.

And yet, after weeks of physical therapy and a lot of hard work on Andy's part, he still didn't have a fill range of motion back.  When his last evaluation came with the doctor, the doctor concluded that Andy had a 10% loss of motion as a result of the breakage, and thought that this would be a permanent disability for Andy.  Andy was unable to make a full solid fist.  Oh, he could do most things with his hands, but actually making a fist was impossible, and the loss of that muscle use bothered Andy a bit.

That 10% disability was reported to the insurance company, and as a result, we received a one-time payment from the insurance company.  This was a very unexpected blessing which helped us to pay bills that had fallen behind while Andy's been on winter lay-off, and it also enabled us to purchase a new mattress set.  That in itself was huge, as I've been having back problems, and most of the pain has vanished with the use of the new (incredibly comfy) mattress.   In addition, it makes us better able to be hospitable, as we love having company and inviting company and family from out of town to stay with us.  But our mattress was in a sorry state, and now we can proudly invite overnight guests and they will have an incredibly comfy night of sleep.

And then there was yesterday.  We've been having a wonderful weekend with our conference, just loving God and taking in all the wonderful words He had to give to us from some amazing young evangelists.  It was a very fun weekend, but last night, God decided to touch Andy's fingers just one more time.

Last night, during a moment of pure joy, as Andy and the entire media production team were caught up in waves of laughter and joy in the Lord, God sent fire into Andy's fingers, and he suddenly found that he could make a fist.  And not just a fist, a firm fist- he could make a fist and punch his hand into a cushion and there was no pain or discomfort.  It was as if he had never broken those fingers in the first place!   Andy got to experience a miracle in his body last night, and it's a moment that will probably live with him forever. He's learned so much through this experience with the broken fingers, but to experience an actual miracle- an actual touch of God's Goodness is overwhelming.

This is such a blessing to Andy, because while he never really said much about it, it really bothered him that his fingers were not totally normal.  Getting a good grip on something- especially while working was something he really had to concentrate on. 

God is just so good, and I'm so... blessed and grateful to Him for healing my husband's fingers.   And doing it in such a joyful way was really the icing on the cake.  He truly showed us His Glory this weekend, and we are even more in love with Him than before.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Love Your Neighbor

“Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

It's really easy to recite this verse.  And it's really easy to look at it and say, why, I do love my neighbor.  I love my friends, they're pretty easy to love, actually.  But what about all those other people who are not your friends?  It's the difficult ones that Jesus was talking about here.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself... just think about that one for a little while.  Yesterday a friend of mine shared a video about loving other people on Facebook.  If I can find it again, I'm going to share it at the end of my post today, because I think it's a very real message for the body of Christ today.

It's easy to love family and friends.  Sure, sometimes they may be exasperating, but you always come back around to loving them, no matter what may happen along the way. But what about all those other people you come across in your circle of activities?  Or even strangers- what about that family a few rows back from you in the movie theater who's kids don't seem to know what quiet means.   The love of Jesus is not just meant for our happy little bubble of personal space and life.  It's meant for all.  We are meant to take that love and share it in every avenue of life.  We are to give it away.

Sometimes that can mean incredible patience on our part, and when God opens our eyes to someone who needs some love, that's one of the first things that usually gets tried.  Patience and love can often go hand in hand, but once we can manage to find some patience, love may not be far behind, and we can make a world of difference to the world around us that is hurting.  

Sometimes that love is something simple- a mom at an activity needs just 30 minutes to run an errand, and love can be shown by offering to keep an eye on a child for that 30 minutes.  Or maybe, that love is simply a few words expressed in appreciation for a job well done.  Words can go a very long way in showing love one-to-another.  Simple actions as well, how about the next time you're grocery shopping and dashing to the checkout, you let that other person go in front of you. 

The love that Jesus shared with us is so priceless, certainly we can take a moment each day and share with those around us.

The video I spoke about before?  I guess I can't put it on here.  However, I think this link will take you to it.  As we head into the weekend, let's all work on putting on our Jesus glasses and seeing all the places around us where we can share love.

Love Glasses

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Tale Of Two Peters

"Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. 67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”
68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed.
69 And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is
one of them.” 70 But he denied it again.
And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are
one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.”
71 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!”
72 A second time
the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept." 

Mark 14:66-72

Every time I read verses about Peter denying Jesus, my heart goes out to him.  It really does, and in an instant, I am taken back to school days when peer pressure was at its highest and criticism from peers really did its best to try and affect the life being lived.    Here, we can most definitely feel bad for Peter, because just a short while ago, he was telling Jesus that he would never deny him, that he would stand by him always.  Just a few short hours before!  And just like that, Jesus was arrested, and fear got the better of Peter.  As he stood outside the building, hoping for any word about how things were going on the inside, he was afraid that had he admitted to being one of the disciples, he too, would find himself arrested and on trial.

It's certainly easy to understand his fear.  It's also easy to play this in any hundreds of scenarios in the present day as well.  I won't go there though, because that's not the point I'm trying to make today.  Instead, I want to think on Peter, because the Peter that we're reading about here in Mark is clearly not the same Peter that we read about in the book of Acts.  What do I mean by that?  Check this out in Acts, chapter 2:

"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words."  Acts 2:14

One day, Peter is denying that he even knows Jesus, and just a short while later he is standing up in front of a multitude, professing the goodness of God!  When we look at these two different sides of the same man Peter, it can certainly make someone wonder.  What exactly happened to Peter that changed him so?  I'll tell you exactly what changed him:

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."  Acts 2:4

Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, who gave him the boldness that he always wished he'd had.  Peter was never the same again, after that moment where the Holy Spirit came upon him.  While Peter was with Jesus, he listened to all the things that Jesus taught, and tried his best to understand them, but it wasn't until the moment when the Holy Spirit became a part of his life that he really began seeing what Jesus had been telling him.  The Holy Spirit is our key to better understanding of the scriptures, and of the many words that Jesus gave us while He was here on earth.

Much is made of becoming a born-again Christian, that moment when you invite Jesus into your life you become a new person.  And much should be made of that- there is great rejoicing in Heaven every time someone prays the sinners prayer.  But, so many people stop there.  They become a Christian, and then they go no further- they are like Peter, who spends time with Jesus, walks with Jesus, but when the moment really and truly counts, they listen to the fear inside of them and maybe deny what they know to be truth.  The fact is, and we can see very clearly from Peter's example, that the moment the new man really emerges is after the Holy Spirit has entered the picture.

And do you know that inviting the Holy Spirit into your life is just as easy as asking Jesus into your life? 

"Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  Acts 2:38-39

The truth is, it is all well and good and wonderful to be a Christian, but we really cannot be a complete Christian until we have the Holy Spirit acting in our lives.  It's the Holy Spirit who gives us the tools we need to succeed in living here on earth.  It's the Holy Spirit who gives us discernment and who gives us the boldness we need to share Christ with those who are hurting.  It's the Holy Spirit who gives us the words to share with the brokenhearted, all we have to do is invite Him in.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"Do they not go astray who devise evil? But mercy and truth belong to those who devise good."  Proverbs 14:22

Mercy and truth.  This week, for Warfare Wednesday, I am praying for mercy and truth.  It has been a crazy last week in the state of Wisconsin, and the craziness appears to be spreading to other states.   It has been a difficult week to be a Christian- and to have an opinion about politics.  Ultimately, for me, I think I just decided that I needed to step away from drawing any opinions and any criticism, and I just needed to spend time praying about the situation.  That regardless of the outcome, peace would be maintained, and that God's desire for this state would be the result.   I'm still praying about it, as protests are now in their ninth day in our state capital.  As I look across the country, I see that the state of Indiana may be following suit... I pray for peace in Indiana as well as Wisconsin- and I pray that God's Will will come out on top.

I am also praying that other Christians will see the need to pray as well.  I've seen too many good men and women of God in the last week getting caught up in the intensity of what's going on.  I think we all just need to take a step back and pray right now.  We need to pray for God's Will to be done in our state, in our neighboring states, and across the country.  God has awesome plans for Wisconsin and our surrounding states.  God has awesome plans for the United States of America, and the enemy chooses to use this time of budget proposals to sow many seeds of discord and anger.  He will not be successful.

And yet, while we are facing our issues in this country, on the other side of the globe, we see democracy taking a stand, first in Egypt and now in Libya.  Freedom is sweeping the globe like wildfire, and I just pray that God would send His peace into these regions and countries and keep the demonstrations calm and peaceful- and that His people would feel a great burden to pray for their nations.

While the people across the globe are taking a stand for what is right, and creating waves, natural waves have been rising, and we need to spend time praying for the precious people of Christchurch, New Zealand.  Right now the headlines say that 75 are dead, but 300 are missing in this devastating earthquake in a beautiful country.  God's been up to something in New Zealand for a while now, and I pray that this earthquake will somehow be used for His Glory.  I pray for peace for those who are suffering the losses of loved ones and property, and I pray that the recovery in that city will be swift and that the usual crimes that follow disaster- looting and theft- would be held at a standstill.  God loves the people of Christchurch, and I pray that they will feel His love in a great and mighty way in the days to come.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Salting The Leaven

"Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."  Mark 8:15

It doesn't take much for a little, private issue within a church to expand and cause problems throughout the whole body.  Jesus warned His disciples about leaven- or yeast in some translations, because yeast multiplies rapidly.  In fact, I remember reading somewhere that if yeast was left to multiply unchecked, it could cover the entire globe in just a matter of days.  It multiplies that fast. 

For some reason, whenever I think on this issue of leaven within the church, I always think of gossip.  Maybe because it's because the rumor mill can multiply an issue before you even know it.  All it takes is one person to start a small tale about another, and the rumor mill takes over and spins the issue and spits it out- multiplied many times.   I am so very blessed and fortunate to be a part of a church where there really is not an issue (at the moment anyway) with gossip and spreading rumor.  And yet, with people always coming and going all the time, we still need to be on our guard for this matter of leaven- because all it takes is one.  All it takes is one person to walk in the door and start gossiping, and then someone else, who maybe has never gossiped a day in their life picks up the tale and starts their own trail of gossip. 

Then again, leaven can also mean other things of the world that creep into the church doors.  And interestingly enough, that can change with different bodies of believers. Leaven speaks about the things of the world entering into the things of God, and spreading.  When we see these things happening, it is up to us to take care of it.

“You are the salt of the earth;"  Matthew 5:13

Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth, and did you know that salt will stop yeast in its tracks?  Yeast and salt do not get along at all- and salt will yield the spread of the yeast- or the leaven.  When we are being salty, we are being the righteous and Godly people that we are meant to be.  A church that is filled with love and praise and adoration for God and for each other is practicing being salty.  A church that loves every single person who walks in the door is halting the leaven before it can even get in the door, because the salt inhibits the yeast from activating.

How cool is that?  We don't even really need to DO anything to guard against this leaven.  If we just live the life that Jesus meant us to live- loving one another, and loving God- we will naturally be on guard against the leaven of the world.  The leaven will not stick around because it will not be comfortable, and it will not multiply even a smidge. 

Let's purpose to be salt.  Because if we are the salt of the earth, the worldly leaven doesn't even have a chance.  We can snuff it out before it can even come out of its container.  The darkness will flee if only we will let our lights burn bright. 

I choose to be salt.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Change of View

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view."  2 Corinthians 5:16

What do you think when you look at people?  In general, when you're observing a group of people, what are you observing for?  Think about that for a minute. Think about spending time at a mall or at a park in the summer, or out at a festival with all kinds of people milling around.  What do you think when you see someone a little unusual? You think about those unusual characteristics don't you?  You may even comment on it to your traveling companions.   When you see people in this way, you're seeing them with worldly eyes, and using a worldly mind to think about them and compare them to what you consider "normal".

Except that we don't have worldly eyes anymore, and we don't have a worldly mind anymore.

"For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.' " 1 Corinthians 2:16

We have the mind of Christ. I think it's time that the Body of Christ change their view and start using the mind that Jesus gave us when He became a part of our lives.  The mind of Christ was a mind that loved people.  He loved the multitudes that followed Him, He had compassion for them and when they came to Him with issues, He healed them- full of love for their very being.

And then there's us.  We see someone strange or different and we move to the other side of the aisle, away from what we are not familiar with.  If Jesus walked with us, He would walk alongside that different person... and yet, Jesus IS with us, so what's going on here?  I think we're still using worldly eyes and worldly minds to view those around us.  But I also think that things are changing and that God is waking up His people to see all the suffering that is going on around us.

You want a good place to go and see some unusual people?  You should try going to your city library in the middle of the work and school day.  Many of the people there at that time simply have no place else to be- so they spend hours a day at the library, reading magazines, books, connecting with people, and sometimes just being inside someplace warm when they have no place else to go.  This last week when we were at the library for our weekly outing, there was a group of disabled teenagers there.  Kids who, when you walked past them looked perfectly normal, but when they started talking or interacting with each other, it was very clear that they had some mental challenges.  And as I walked past one kid in particular, I looked at him and I saw a nice-looking young man with pain behind his eyes.  He was trying to learn to read with a tutor, and you could tell that things just weren't going well at all, and he was struggling.  My heart hurt for him, and I actually got a little angry- why are there people like this?  Why on earth are there people whose minds don't work correctly, and so they must go through life as a challenge for everyone around them.  Why didn't God intervene as this child was formed and make their minds the right way?

I certainly don't know the answers to those questions, but I do know this, that God deeply loves that young man I saw- and all of his colleagues as well.  God loves every single one of them, and maybe one of the reasons there are people like them is so that someday, when we find ourselves moved with compassion, we can reach out to them, pray for them, and see God deliver them of their afflictions.  Imagine that! Imagine praying for a busload of LD students, and when they return to school later that day they are all speaking and behaving like normal teenagers.   Think about the joy in their household when they return home later on- and all the glory would go to God!  God didn't put disease and mental issues on the planet, his enemy did, but we all know that God can use EVERYTHING for good.  God can take what the devil meant to destroy someone and use it for His Glory.  That's just cool.

So what can we do when we catch ourselves looking around us and using our worldly eyes and minds?  We can recite scripture to ourselves.  We can remind ourselves that we have the mind of Christ, and start looking around us with those Christ-colored glasses.  Do you know what color those glasses are?  They're love colored.   Let's all purpose to put on those love-colored glasses and see what it is that God really wants us to see.  It's time to change our view.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Temple

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are."  1 Corinthians 3:16-17

I had to look up the word "defiles" this morning.  I wanted to see if there was anything special about the definition of it.  There wasn't, but this is what the dictionary says it means:" to violate the sanctity of, to corrupt the purity or perfection of, to make physically unclean especially with something unpleasant or contaminating, and to make unclean or impure."  You know, these verses are some of the very first I remember being used often in church when I was a teenager.  It was used frequently in discussions of why not to use drugs or alcohol.  Frequently! In fact, it's still used today for the exact same thing, but I think we're doing these verses a great disservice if we stop there with the things that we all know are not particularly good for our body.

I mean, what about really watching what we eat?  I'm not even talking about eating too much- in the area of gluttony.  I'm also not talking about following some kind of Biblical diet, like keeping kosher or eating as Daniel did, or even John the Baptist (heaven forbid!).  But I'm talking about physically making our bodies unclean by contaminating it with fake food and chemicals.  I certainly don't think this is an absolute for living a good Christian life, but it certainly is something to pay attention to, because when we consume these foods that our body can't process, we're doing it great harm, and we're chipping away at the very foundations of our temple, making it weak and unable to resist attacks of disease and sickness.

God gave us such an amazing abundance of food to sustain our bodies.  He really outdid Himself with the variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and grains alone, but then you throw into the mix the wonderful animal by-products of milk and eggs, and then the variety of animals He also gave us for eating, and WOW!  The possibilities with all these wonderful creations is endless.  So why is it that we are rushing out in droves to the grocery store to pick up those dairy products filled with chemicals?  Wonder what I'm talking about?  Check out that low-fat sour cream the next time you pick it up.  Read the ingredients- how many can you even pronounce, let alone know what they are?   Real sour cream has cultured milk in it.  God gave us perfect food for our bodies in the first place- of course He did!  He didn't create cows that give milk, thinking that some day man would make it even better by taking out the fat.  If God thought that dairy fat was bad for us in the first place, don't you think He could have made a fat-free cow in the first place?  Think about that.  Seriously think about that.

There are so many diseases, food allergies and intolerances on the rise, and I really think it's because we're defiling our temples with fake food.   Now, I'm not saying we all need to move out to the country, get a couple of cows, chickens and plant a few acres of garden, but I am saying that as keepers of these incredible temples, we need to pay more attention to what we put into it.   Even more so, I think that as parents, we should be held even more accountable if we corrupt our children's bodies by putting garbage into them as well.  Oh, I know it happens, that's for sure.  No one laments the introduction of chicken nuggets to my kids more than I.  If they'd never had one to begin with, they'd never want to eat them.   I can't go back and change that, but what I can do, is make changes now.  I can feed them real food, and I can insist, when we go cereal shopping, that we find the cereals that are not full of chemicals and added fake sugars and dyes that our bodies really cannot process. 

Just look above at what this verse says about people who defile their temple- it literally says that God will destroy him!  ""If ANYONE defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him."  WE are the temples of God, and we need to pay better attention to our temples.  We need to watch very much what we put into them, because we really do need food to survive- we can only go a handful of days without sustenance.  And here's something else to think about.  The devil also knows that we need food to survive.  He knows this as much as he knows we need air to breathe.   If the devil knows that we need food to survive, how delighted do you think he is to see us stuffing our face with all this fake food filled with chemicals and carcinogens that's only going to give us cancer down the road?  I think we are being naive if we think our enemy won't try and use food to get our bodies to shut down.   Of course he will, he comes only to steal, kill and destroy, and what better way than to try and affect our bodies by the very thing it needs to function from day to day.

I know I've decided to change our ways drastically.  We go out to eat so seldom now, because I know that what we get to eat when we're out is not honoring to our temples.  And when I am at home, I cook almost  everything from scratch, using only those canned goods and foods that are not full of chemicals, dyes, and other unreal food.   It probably makes my kids mad, to be honest.  Sometimes they'll ask for chicken nuggets, and I'll buy hormone free chicken breasts and make my own breaded chicken strips.  They're tasty, but not the chemical filled treats they were hoping for.   But I refuse to let the devil cause us to destroy our temples by enticing us with fake food.  He will not win that one, and it is my prayer today that the more people I can share this with, the more people will realize that the things they are putting in their mouths are the very things the devil hopes will ruin their physical bodies and steal their very lives from them and their children.  He will not succeed. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Warfare Wednesday: Discernment

"So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
       3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
       4 If you seek her as silver,
      And search for her as
for hidden treasures;
       5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
      And find the knowledge of God.
       6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
      From His mouth
come knowledge and understanding;"  Proverbs 2:2-6

This morning, and the last few days actually, I've been thinking about the direction our country is headed.  Or maybe lack of direction would be better at the moment.   Oh, I continue to pray heartily for President Obama, because I believe God's not finished with him yet, and I do believe that the change that our president stood for in his campaigning is still possible- it just may not be in the way he imagined.  Change for God is the ultimate change that will make a difference in our country.

I was actually thinking about the fact that we are now two years out from the next presidential election, and different people are stepping forward and declaring an interest in running for the leader of our country.  Still others are being asked to consider running, and it just has me wondering, how can we really know who is best for the United States of America?  How do we decide the right man (or woman) for the job- really?  I was thinking about one person in particular, and wondered if it was more important to elect someone with high morals- or if it was more important to go with the very wise businessman who could maybe make a difference with the financial troubles of this country.  I really was thinking hard about this the other day, and then it occurred to me what we really need to begin praying for with regards to the future of our country.  Discernment.

As born-again believers of the Kingdom of God, we need to begin praying for discernment for the American people.  We need to begin praying that the people will see deception where it needs to be seen- but most importantly, we need to begin praying that the people will discern God's person for the job.  So many right-wing people are focused on trying to find the right candidate to shove President Obama out of office, but as I mentioned above, God isn't finished with him yet.  Perhaps the reason that none of the prospective candidates (this early in the game, of course) just scream to me as someone to put my support behind, is because President Obama IS the man for the job.  With two years left in his presidency, a lot can change, and a whole lot can happen.

And so my prayer this morning is for a discerning eye for the American people.  May they see the truth about this country,and may that discernment lead our people to praying for President Obama.  May the people begin crying out to God for truth and understanding, and may He grant it in a way that only He can give.  May discernment flood the United States of America, and may people begin to stand up for truth, righteousness, and God above all else.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


"And He said to them, Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and will say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves [of bread],
    6For a friend of mine who is on a journey has just come, and I have nothing to put before him;
    7And he from within will answer, Do not disturb me; the door is now closed, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and supply you [with anything]?
    8I tell you, although he will not get up and supply him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his shameless persistence and insistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs."  Luke 11:5-8 (AMP)

I had to read these verses a few times in a few different translations to really understand what was being said here.  I'm sure I still am missing quite a bit, because I'm not understanding the elaborate question being asked. But the answer at first is no, go away. Obviously though, we are persistent, because in the end, our friend gets up out of bed and gives us as much as we need.  I wonder how annoying we got in order to get him out of bed?

The key here though is persistence.  If you read these verses alone, it's a nice little tale of not giving up when you need something, but there is something more to be found in the verses that follow.  I found the Amplified version put it best.

"So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.    10For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened."  Luke 11:9-10

Ask, and keep on asking.  Seek and keep on seeking.  Knock, and keep on knocking.  That is just such encouragement, and a wonderful reminder.  Because in this faith walk that we are all walking out in life, we can always keep asking, because we are constantly changing.  We could be a baby Christian, seeing a powerful evangelist speak for the first time and ask God to make us like that evangelist.  Well, God knows we have a lot of growing to do before we come even close to the abilities of that evangelist, so he tells us no- or not now.  We have two choices then, we can give up and never ask again, OR as we go through life we can remember that experience with that evangelist and ask God to help make us like that evangelist.  If we are persistent- and show we mean what we are asking by studying His Word and spending time in prayer, then with time and maturation, one day our persistent asking could result in a very big yes.

The world really is our oyster, but sometimes we are simply not ready for what God has for us.  In those cases, we need to work to make ourselves ready, and continue asking- we need to be persistent!

This can also be applied to natural matters as well.  I clearly remember the many times Andy and I decided it was time to move from wherever we were living.  Every single time we decided it was time to move, our eyes looked towards the city.  Every time!  We would ask God if we could move there, and would look for an oppportunity, and it never happened. For the time, He wanted us in the small town we were living in. While we were content for a time in each of the places we lived, there was a part of us that still wanted a move to the city, and when we asked again that last time, we finally got the answer our hearts desired.  God is so good!

I even think of times when I am reading my Bible.  How often do I come across a passage that I don't quite understand.  I'll read it, ask God to show me what it's saying, but sometimes, there's nothing there.  Sometimes I have to come back to a passage over and over, and every time I am reminded that I feel like I'm missing something, and I ask God to show me, and still, nothing.  But then that one time comes along where I am coming across it again, and the words on the page begin to sing to me, and I see exactly what God wants to say to me with that passage.  It's wonderful!  But had He showed me way back the first time I asked, I wouldn't have understood, or I wouldn't have been ready to really know what it was saying. 

We should be persistent in our walk with God.  Those unsaved loved ones and neighbors we are praying for?  We should never stop praying for that salvation.  It isn't enough to say we prayed for them once and that was enough- we need to continue to pray for God's realness in their lives.  When we pray for someone who is sick, we don't just say a quick prayer once and consider it done, we continue praying, we continue with persistence until that sickness is gone from their body and they are whole.  

If we read just a little farther in Luke, chapter 11, we see what the reward is for our persistence.

"What father among you, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?    12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
    13If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts [gifts that are to their advantage] to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!"  Luke 11:11-13

If we are persistent, God will answer us.  If we are persistent, He will not answer our desire to be a world-changer by making us a hermit in a strange land.  He will see and hear our persistence, and He will smile on that persistence and give us exactly what we ask for- and so much more!  Sometimes I think He just wants to know how much we really want what we are asking Him for.  How willing are we to go the distance to acheive that goal?  If we desire to be a pastor, are we willing to put everything aside and sacrifice the time to go to Bible school?  If we desire to be an evangelist, are we willing to submit to another's authority while we learn and intern under another evangelist for possibly years?  If we desire to truly heal the sick and raise the dead, are we willing to begin at the bottom by praying for that headache, that back pain, or that gentleman in the wheelchair?

Persistence could unlock a world of possibilities for us within God's Kingdom.  Are we willing to be persistent?  Or are we wanting everything to come easy- only those who are persistent will see the fullness of what God has for them.   Persistence will see us to the goal line.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Do's And Don'ts

"Therefore,if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh." Colossians 2:20-23

I love coming across verses like this in the Bible.  I just love it, especially when I've been spending time conversing with someone who has a strong belief about a particular subject.  For example, I clearly remember a conversation with someone who was really wondering if he should insist that his wife and daughter where head coverings in church.  It seemed to be really bothering him, that he'd found the verses in the Bible where this was mentioned as important, and he was struggling a bit with whether or not it was for today.

It's verses like the ones above that tell me that we have a free will, and the choice to live as we see fit.  What I mean by that, is that if there are verses in the Bible that really speak to you about covering your head, than you should follow that.  But, that does not mean that your neighbor is guilty of breaking some Biblical law, it just means your neighbor has not felt the same convictions.   This goes across the board in many, many areas of life.  Being a part of the homeschool community, you can imagine I come across a lot of people who are passionate about the way they apply the Bible to real life, and that's wonderful! I love that, and I love the diversity.  What I don't love is when these same people (whom I love and admire) basically tell me I'm guilty of living a sinful life because I don't follow the same principles.

Every once in a while I'll be reading my Bible and come across one of these things, and I'll really wonder if that principle is something that is meant for me to follow- something that should be more important in the church today.  I'll be honest, sometimes those thoughts really go on for a while, as I wrestle with whether or not I could follow through on that kind of idea.  And then I read these verses in Colossians, which calm my thoughts and my mind, and tell me that those ideas are not necessarily meant for me, they may be, and I should explore that if they are truly on my mind, but the chances are, they are not.  I think if I came across some guideline in my Bible that I really felt I needed to follow, that God would make it clear to me.   If he meant for me to cover my head, I would strongly feel that I needed to.   (And there are many other things along those lines that come up from time to time, I'm just using head covering as an example because it's a simple one.)

Sometimes, there may be a season in your life where God asks you to follow one of the many guidelines in the Bible, but at the same time, that doesn't necessarily mean a commitment for life- He could just as easily one day tell you that you are finished with that guideline, and then He will shower His love on your willingness and obedience towards Him.  Because that's the reason I believe some of us get called to certain directions or guidelines in the Bible.  I believe in those moments, God is calling us simply as an act of obedience, and will we follow through on that?  I like to think that I would.  If I opened up my Bible and read something that God called me to, I would like to think that I would be obedient and follow through, but...

Food for thought, I guess, is that so many times, as I've seen, these people who follow some random guideline or direction in the Bible, follow that with all their heart.  But then they miss some of the more basic guidelines which are for all of us, every single day.  Guidelines such as this:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.:  John 13:34-35

"And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead,cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."  Matthew 10:7-8

Why is it that we get so passionate about following to the letter some little man-made guideline hidden somewhere in the words of the Bible, but we ignore the words that Jesus spoke directly to us?   Someday when I'm standing before my Lord in Heaven, I don't want my shining moment to be something silly and man-made.  Can you imagine?  "Awesome job there on earth covering your head...but I think you missed the verses on loving your neighbor, and healing the sick." 

Things to think about today.  Where's your obedient heart?  Are you willing to be obedient in EVERYTHING?  Or just when it is seemingly convenient for you?  Why are we so willing to follow the letter of the law on something that man made up, but not the guidelines that Jesus set forth for us?  We get passionate about one particular thing in the Bible, while ignoring all the rest.  Somehow, I think that's not what God intended.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Great Yearning

"For I know that my Redeemer lives,
      And He shall stand at last on the earth;

 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
      That in my flesh I shall see God,

 27 Whom I shall see for myself,
      And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!"  Job 19:25-27

Every time I find myself in the book of Job, I find myself so greatly encouraged in my walk with God.  I know many people view it as a book filled with suffering and torment, but I honestly don't see that when I read it.  I see an amazing story of a pure heart, and all kinds of wonderful truths about our God.

I mean, just look up above at verse 27 here.  Job is in a miserable place.  He has lost everything, and his very physical body is suffering.  His friends are speaking falsely to him, and even his wife has chastised him and called him dirt.  But look- despite all this, despite all that he is suffering, his heart is yearning for the moment when he will see God.  This is very telling, because Job could be talking about how much he is longing for his body to be whole again, or how much he is longing for the suffering to end.  Instead, his heart is longing for his Father in Heaven.  His heart is full of hope that soon he will have his moment of actually seeing God. 

Job knows that he's lived a good life.  He knows where his heart lies, and while his friends and wife accuse him of wrongdoing and of sinning against God somehow, He KNOWS that he's done no wrong, and he is looking forward to meeting his Creator with a pure heart. The thing that has me thinking is, could I say that?  If I thought my end was near, would I be looking forward to meeting God?  Or would there be fear there- fear for the wrongs hidden in my heart?   Something to think on isn't it?

What I do know is that Job had a great yearning in his heart to see God, despite the loss of absolutely everything in his life.  He doesn't blame God for one minute for any of his troubles, and his heart reflects that.  What does your heart reflect today?  I know I hope that my heart reflects a desire to please my Father in Heaven.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interesting Findings

"Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. "  Matthew 27:51-53

Do you ever find something new when reading your Bible?  I know I do all the time.  I can have read a passage a hundred times over in life, and then just like that, there's something new there that I never really noticed before.  The Living Word amazes me constantly.

The words that captured me the other day are posted right here above.  Jesus was crucified, and I don't know that I ever really noticed these verses- do you see what they are saying?  They are saying that at the time that Jesus died, many of the graves opened up, and people rose from the dead.  Furthermore, they went into Jerusalem and appeared to many!  But then we read nothing more about it.  Who were these once-dead saints?  Were they back to life in their earthly bodies for a time- but then what happened when it was time for them to die again?  Did they just disappear like Enoch? Caught up into Heaven?  Or did they die an earthly death a second time, needing their bodies to be buried once again.  This is one of those questions that I suspect I'll be taking with me to heaven to ask myself.

Imagine what that must have been like.  You're in Jerusalem minding your own business, you know that on the outskirts of the city the man Jesus of Nazareth is being crucified.  You yourself haven't quite decided what you make of him, you think he could be the Messiah, but you're not quite certain, but you're thinking on it as you go about your daily business.  And then there is thunder and lighting, there is darkness in the middle of the day, and then as you're walking through the city, you see someone you haven't seen in years.  You see an old neighbor who passed away years ago- and what you remember about that neighbor was how much they seemed to love and believe in God.  And suddenly, there he is, as if he hadn't been dead for twenty years now.  I can't help but think that at that moment, you would fall to your knees, certain that Jesus had indeed been the Messiah, and that your people just made a huge mistake.

I'm glad I wasn't there during that time.  And I'm even more glad that we don't have to wonder whether or not Jesus Christ is the Messiah, because He IS.  He paid the ultimate price for our own recklessness and sinful behavior.  Jesus paved the way for us to spend an eternity in paradise, with our Heavenly Father, and our brother Jesus Christ at His side.

You know, History is our major focus of our school studies here at home.  History is so important, because when we look back, we can learn from our past.  We can see the mistakes that have been made, and then purpose to not make them again.  Over 2000 years ago a people decided that Jesus was not the Messiah they were waiting for- and as a result, they are still waiting.  We don't have to wait another moment.  He has already come, and He is very much alive and living- ready for us to reach out our hearts to Him and ask Him to be Lord over our lives.  That's all it takes, and we can make Jesus our own personal Messiah.   He's waiting for that very thing.

"Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Matthew 16:16

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Warfare Wednesday: The Food Edition

"And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
15 And a voice
spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16:13-15
This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again."  Acts 10

It's no secret that food is often on my mind. I have a great fondness for cooking and subsequently, eating what is cooked.  I also have a great fondness for growing the food we eat in the form of a vegetable garden.  But more and more recently, I've had the food system here in our country on my mind.   It's been on my mind a lot actually, easily every day, and just when I think it's out of my mind, something else is brought to my attention and I can't help but think on it some more.  I've been wondering why, to be honest.  Part of me, as I've been planning my garden, was a little worried that perhaps I'm being prepared for a time of crisis in our country- a time when our food supply just isn't safe to rely on.  And that could be, but really, I think the reason it has been brought to my attention is so that I can intercede on behalf of the American people and we can avoid a crisis.

Pray for food?  Oh yes.  Ever since the terrorist attacks, nearly ten years ago now, the food supply system in this country has said over and over that our food would be an easy way for terrorists to infiltrate.  Over the years we've had dozens of recalls of products that have made people sick to the point of death.  Recalls on everyday products that you wouldn't expect to cause problems- peanut butter, eggs, spinach. And so this morning, I proclaim Matthew 6:25 over the food system of the United States.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?"  Matt. 6:25

We shall not have to worry about the safety of the foods we put into our bodies.  I am praying this morning that the food system in this country will be safe, and protected from anyone or anything that wishes to do our people harm.

As I pray for the continued safety and protection for President Obama and his family this week, I am also praying for Godly wisdom for them in the area of this country's food system.  The First Lady has been doing a lot to promote healthy eating and exercise, and I just pray that God would bless her efforts so that they would bear fruit, and that the wisdom and understanding that she is gaining about the quality of food in this country would be understood by those who need to understand it.  We should not have to worry about our children having heart disease at the age of 20 because of the quality of the meals we eat from day to day.  We live in an amazing country full of opportunity and abundance, and it's that abundance with a lack of wisdom that is causing so many of the health problems we see today.  

God gave us such amazing foods to eat in their natural states.  So many varieties of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, dairy and meat products are available to us each and every day.  May God give the people of this country wisdom to choose those foods that are good for them- and not the ones synthetically created or full of chemicals.  God knew what He was doing when He gave us this amazing array of fresh foods to eat- I just feel wholeheartedly that it's time to return to those very things that He gave us all those years ago. 

"Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs."  Genesis 9:3

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

He WILL Direct Your Paths

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
      And lean not on your own understanding;
       6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
      And He shall direct your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

I have a little thing to share today.  And it is literally, a little thing in the grand scheme of life, but you know what?  I think that God teaches us through the little things so that when the big things come along, we'll be ready and waiting.  The other night I was thinking about how we came to be in this house, and I remembered that feeling that flooded my entire being as I walked out of this house that first time after seeing it.  As I was thinking that, I was also thinking about how we came to be at the church we were at.  It was actually the same kind of thing.  We went to a few Churches, waiting for that ah-ha moment and definitely didn't have it.  When we walked into the doors of this one, we had our moment.

God does that if we ask Him to.  He will direct our paths if we put Him first in everything, and yesterday He directed me on a little path while I was sitting here at the computer.  I was thinking some thoughts about our schooling, and suddenly I thought that I should look at a Science curriculum I'd been pining after for the kids.  We have a little extra money set aside, and I thought that something new for Science would be wonderful, and since we could afford this curriculum... Anyway, those thoughts led me to the website for that company.  I knew exactly what I wanted for both kids and loaded up my cart.  I filled out all my shipping information, and then the moment came to put in my credit card to pay for it.  And I paused.  I very clearly had a thought in my head that before I put this information in, I needed to go check out this other curriculum site.

Now, I have to say that this thought was very strange to me, because I have never looked at this curriculum before.  I'd heard of it, but I have never checked out their website or done any looking into what  they offered.  But that thought gave me pause, and I decided that I better go look before I put in this information.  I pulled up another window and went searching.  What I found was golden.  It was a curriculum style that I was after- Science from a Godly perspective, but without inundating us with scripture references, and without compromising the integrity of the science itself.  The best part was that other than basic household supplies, this curriculum also comes with all the needed items for experiments!  The other curriculum did not do that.  I loved what I saw- and I loved the price tag even better.  I went back to the other site and canceled what I was processing, and then ordered the new science. 

I'm incredibly excited about this!  One one level, I'm just excited because it really looks awesome on the website- this is a science program that we'll really be able to sink our teeth into.  But on a better level, I'm just so grateful to God, and so happy that He chose that moment to guide my path.  We probably would have done okay with the first program, but because I know that this direction came right from my Father in Heaven, I know that we're going to LOVE this new path for our Science studies.   As I think on it further, I also can smile because I know that spending a little bit on our science was not a waste of money either.  I often experience that- a little buyers remorse after a purchase.  But in this case, I just feel good about it, and that package of material cannot come fast enough!

I love, love, love it when God directs my paths.  I can always proceed down that path with complete confidence, and thank Him all along the way.  Even better?  I can tell others about it.  I can share how God directs my path in even the smallest things, and what God does for me, He can most definitely do for you.  

Monday, February 07, 2011

Let The Earth Rejoice!

"The LORD reigns;
         Let the earth rejoice;
         Let the multitude of isles be glad!"  Psalm 97:1

The earth does rejoice.  The earth rejoices daily because the Lord reigns.  All one needs to do is look at any growing thing and see that it reaches up towards heaven.  The trees lift their arms towards their Creator in worship and adoration.  Even a simple blade of grass reaches as high as it can to praise the God who created it.

In those places on earth where there are no trees or growing things you can find something else that praises God daily- the mountains and the dunes.  Think of a sandy dessert, it's filled with sand dunes- every single one of them reaching up towards heaven.  The frozen tundra is full of icebergs and mountain tops- every single one lifted to God on High.

Isn't that fun to think of?  It's such a joy to think of all the earth around me praising God with every moment of its being.  As I watch little seedlings begin to grown in my house, they sprout, and then they grow quickly- with arms extended, reaching out for Daddy with every moment of growth.

The other day I was reading in Job, and I came upon these verses about the storehouses of snow and hail, and they made me pause this time.

“Have you entered the treasury of snow,
      Or have you seen the treasury of hail,
 23 Which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
      For the day of battle and war?"  Job 38:22-23

Because it says that God has reserved the snow and hail for times of trouble and battle and war.  And it makes me wonder what it is that we humans don't see.  I know there is a supernatural world around me- filled with angels and demons doing battle and keeping watch.  These verses are maybe giving us a little hint as to what goes on.  All the snow that has been falling on the country this year?  I believe that God is telling us that He is cleansing our nation of impurities.  I believe that it has been a time of war in the heavenlies over the United States of America, and that righteousness will prevail.  While we can't see what is going on, we do get to see the beautiful snow after it's fallen.  What grace from God- that we not see the battle going on around us, but simply the righteousness that remains when the battle is finished.

All the earth around us speaks of the things that God is doing... If only we could learn to see what it is the earth speaks.  For myself, as I look at the trees daily- whether they be dormant, or in leaf, every single one reaches towards the sky with arms wide open.  Evergreen trees, even, are uniquely shaped, almost in an arrow- pointed directly towards God above.   Also, as I watch each seedling sprout in preparation for this year's gardening adventure- every single sprout speaks of the goodness of God.  They speak of His promises that we need never worry, and they speak of His promises that He is always doing something new. 

The earth rejoices simply because He is Lord.  We can use that for an example.  We need to rejoice, simply because God is God.  We don't need a reason to rejoice- we don't need something good to happen to rejoice.  All we need is Him.

Friday, February 04, 2011

God IS My Strength

“[To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said:] I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:1-2

I love telling stories about how God works in our lives.  I hope you don't ever tire of reading them, because I sure don't tire of telling them.   If you'll recall, last fall, Andy was in an accident at work that broke two of his fingers.  Angels were with him that day, there is no doubt, because the force of the accident he had experienced was one that could have easily taken his whole arm off.  To walk away with just two broken fingers was nothing short of a miracle.  

As Andy began the healing process, followed by rehab, there were many opportunities for him to plant seeds of faith in people.  Every time he met with a nurse or a doctor or one of his physical therapists, they would tell him his hand shouldn't be healing so well, and then he was able to tell them about His God who was taking care of his fingers for him.  Other people would tell Andy that God was trying to teach him a lesson through this accident.  In fact, it was God's intervention that kept those fingers attached to the hand.  The devil was trying to rob us of our livelihood- Andy works with his hands in everything he does.  And yet, three days after his accident, he was back at work- and his bosses are still thanking him for his diligence on the job. 

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28

Where the devil meant this accident to cause harm to Andy, God has been using this accident for good.  The relationship between Andy and his bosses has increased dramatically- and as such, they kept him at work as long as possible this year- and are putting him back to work incredibly early as well.   Honestly, if that was all that came of the broken fingers, that would be more than enough- and who knows when those seeds that Andy planted could bring forth fruit as well.  But then yesterday there was an extra something that God threw into the mix just because He's God and He can.  Because of how his fingers have healed, he was entitled to a bit of a payment from the insurance company.  We have wondered over the last month or so how much that would be, but anticipated it being a very, very small amount.  Yesterday we learned that it wasn't a very small amount.  While it's not ginormous either, it's more than enough to meet our expenses over the next month while Andy gears back up for work.  It's a pure blessing that we didn't expect.  Where the devil tried to rob Andy of his livelihood and his fingers, God has turned an accident into a blessing several times over.

Isn't God awesome?   And just when I'm wondering how we're ever going to make it through until when Andy will get back to working full time, God pulls out a really cool blessing to assure me that He knows our needs even before we do.   And that's the goodness of God.  He knows what we'll need tomorrow before we do, and will set things in motion well in advance of when we need them- if only we will trust Him in all things.  God is my rock, and in Him will I trust.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Peaceful Sheep

“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.”  John 16:33 (NIV)

I received a really nice e-mail the other day from a person who was doing a little digging into Christianity- it was a lovely message, and I thought I would take the opportunity to post a bit of a response out here, because when I think on the idea of Jesus, being a Christian, and the idea of peace, it just fills me with happiness- and of course, peace.  For peace doesn't come from within- it doesn't come from inside of me.  And peace doesn't come from the circumstances around me.  And actually, peace doesn't even come from just being a Christian and being a part of organized religion in a way.  When I go to church on Sunday morning, there isn't an automatic sense of peace.  But peace comes only from the Savior.  Peace comes from Jesus Christ, who has been invited to be a part of my life.  It is His peace that runs in my veins and fills me with peace every single time I need it.  By asking Jesus into my heart and my life, I opened the door for His peace to come right in with Him.

That peace is always, always there.  The more time I spend getting to know Jesus and His precious peace, the more I am able to use it too.  His peace keeps me from getting scared, nervous, or keeps me from panicking in those kind of moments.  But there are times where I feel not-so-peaceful, and those are the times where I can very clearly see the enemy trying to come at me and rob me of my peace.

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  John 10:10 

He tries often to rob me of my peace.  Quite often in the area of money, actually.  I shared just the other day how I have that mid-month assessment of not having enough and that begins to fester and cause me troubles.  But those thoughts and feelings never last long, because my Jesus is so much bigger than that.  When I remind myself that Jesus is peace, it's almost like taking a cough drop for a cough- I feel instant relief, and I literally feel a wave of peace wash over me.  Peace is one of the realities of having Jesus in my life. Here's a couple of the verses in John that tell a little bit more about why Jesus brings peace into my life.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."  John 10:11-15

Jesus is the good shepherd, and He will always, always be there for me.  He will never leave me, nor will he let me be led astray by a wolf for very long before He comes dashing after me to bring me back to the fold.  As these verses foreshadowed, Jesus did lay down His own life for me.  For me!  Jesus died on the cross so that I could choose to spend an eternity with my Father in Heaven.  These days that I am living in now are just the beginning of that eternity.  Look! Here are more of Jesus' words:

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”  John 10:27-30

Jesus gave ME eternal life.  It says right here in the book of John that I shall never perish, and that I don't need to be afraid of being snatched away by evil.  I belong to God! 

A shepherd or a farmer marks their livestock.  They'll use branding or attach a tag somewhere on the body of the animal to designate that animal as belonging to them.  So in the event that a sheep wanders off or gets snatched up, someone can see the mark on the sheep and return them to their rightful owner.  The day I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life, to come and live inside of me and help me to learn to be more like Him, was the day that I received my mark.  I bear the seal of the Most High God on my heart, and it belongs to Him and only Him.  That seal shines bright in days of darkness, when the enemy would try to do harm.   That seal is the ultimate protection against evil, and because I know that I carry that seal on my heart, I am full of His Peace.  Nothing can get to me, nothing can snatch me away, and nothing can come between me and an eternity in Heaven.  That is the ultimate peace.

Do you know the best part about this peace?  It's for everyone who wants it.  It's literally for every single person on this planet who wants it.

"I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness."  John 12:46

Jesus says "whoever".  Anyone who wants the ultimate peace simply has to open their heart up to the love of a Heavenly Father.  That's it! A simple prayer to ask Jesus into their hearts and lives is the only requirement to receiving the peace that passes all understanding. Jesus is the secret to living in peace.  It's not my church, it's not my religion, it's not my family or money situation, it's not my job or my hobbies, it's simply Jesus.  Jesus gave me peace when He came into my life, and He offers it freely  for anyone who wants to ask Him in. 

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  John 14:27

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Warfare Wednesday: Egypt

"Yes, may you see your children’s children.Peace be upon Israel!"  Psalm 128:6

This week's Warfare Wednesday post is about as specific as I think I've gotten in the time that I've been doing it.  Today's mission is to pray for Egypt. 

As I read about and watch the events unfold with the protesting and the unrest in Egypt, I can't help but feel like I dropped the ball a little with regards to praying for Egypt.  It was back in November when I really felt my eye turn towards Egypt, and I felt a burden to pray for that country. I did, and in fact did a Warfare Wednesday post on it.  But after a day or two of praying, I just stopped.  Something had happened in that country- an attack on a church I think- and so I assumed that was what I had been praying for. Now, watching what is going on, I can't help but feel that I should have kept on praying.

But that's okay, because I can pray again.  And when the people pray, God listens. It's so important that we pray for peace in Egypt, that we pray for a peaceful stop to the protests and the fighting going on.  In that region of the world, peace is tentative at best anyway, and it would take nothing for the fighting in Egypt to move beyond its borders and cause a major war event in the Middle East.  We need to pray for peace in Jerusalem, and in the regions beyond.

As I've also shared before, I think that God has a soft spot for the people of Egypt.  It was the land of Egypt that fed His people all those years ago when there was a famine in the land.  And it was the land of Egypt that sheltered His Son when His life was in danger before it had barely even begun.

"Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”  Matthew 2:13-15

I believe that if enough of us will spend time interceding on behalf of the nation of Egypt, that God will hear our cries, our prayers, and will see our tears that are shed for this beautiful country full of beautiful people.   So I ask that you join me today in praying for Egypt.

"Then the LORD will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day, and will make sacrifice and offering; yes, they will make a vow to the LORD and perform it. 22 And the LORD will strike Egypt, He will strike and heal it; they will return to the LORD, and He will be entreated by them and heal them."  Isaiah 19:21-22

May God perform signs and wonders once again in the Land of Egypt as He did so long ago.  May He spread His love across the land and across the people, and may they forget what it is they wanted to fight for, as they'll be so swept up in love for each other, for their country, and for the Lord God Most High.   May God heal the unrest in Egypt and may He flood the country with blessings and peace that will spread throughout the Middle East- instead of the unrest and war-like mentality that is trying to spring forth.  We call that warring spirit fruitless, and pray that peace will reign over all.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Moments Of Compassion

"When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick."  Matthew 14:13-14

Yesterday when I read this passage in Matthew, I had to read it through several times to make sure it was saying what I thought it was saying.  Just before these verses, we read about John the Baptist being beheaded, and that's exactly what verse 13 is talking about when it says Jesus heard it.  Jesus had just learned that John the Baptist was beheaded, so He was going somewhere by himself to grieve.

And look what happened next.  He didn't get his quiet time by himself.  The multitude that had been following him also heard about John and followed Jesus- probably to see if he had any answers for them.  When a disaster happens here, or someone dies unexpectedly, "the multitudes" always have questions.  They want to know why this person had to die, why did this have to happen, and things like that.  They probably were following Jesus with those questions in mind- and also wondering what His thoughts were on the whole matter.   And what did Jesus do?

Well, he could have sent them all away- or continued in his quest to find solitude. He could have been cold and uncaring- after all, he just learned that a dear friend was murdered for no reason, if there was a time for him to insist on alone time, this could have been it.  And yet, at what was probably one of the lowest points in his life in ministry, he saw all these people following, he saw their hurts and their pain.  He saw the concern in their eyes- and probably the tears as they too, grieved the loss of a great man.  At that moment, Jesus was filled with compassion, the grief that he had been feeling turned into compassion, and it says that Jesus healed their sick.

We frequently hear the verse that God uses all things for good, and here is an amazing example of it in the life of Jesus.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28

As Jesus looked out over the crowd and saw the grief that was probably mirrored in his own eyes, he felt compassion- and empathy- because he knew what they were feeling.  And instead of being selfish and insisting on being alone, he used that compassion to heal the sick among them. For those people who were healed, you can bet that this was a moment that would last the rest of their lives.  The heard about John the Baptist, and went to Jesus to see if he had any answers for them.  Instead of getting answers for their sorrow, they came away healed and healthy- God used their sorrow to bring them to their moment of healing.

One of the most important things that we can learn from Jesus, I think, is His use of compassion.  He found compassion for people in the strangest of circumstances.  In this passage here, first he healed their sick, and then a few verses later, his disciples want to send the people away because they are all hungry and have no food.  Instead, Jesus insisted on feeding them, and fed the multitude of 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.  Jesus was going away to be alone and sorrowful!   This was his goal- to go somewhere quiet so he could mourn his friend, and that moment of solitude he was searching for turned into a time of ministry with the healing, and then he didn't want to send the people away- so he fed them with nothing.

It wasn't until after everyone had eaten that Jesus sent the crowds and his disciples away.  And then, then He finally got his moments of quiet, and what did he do?  He prayed.  I'll bet those prayers were full of thanks for God for the blessings that he saw that day.  Instead of feeling sorry for himself for the loss of a friend, he found compassion for the many needs around him, and worked through his grief by caring for those who needed it.

We can be going through a rough time in our lives, but what these verses say to me is that someone out there probably has it worse.  We can really feel emotionally drained like we're going through something serious, and maybe it's in those moments that God has someone waiting for us to hear about the love He has for them.   What we can learn from Jesus is that we don't really need those moments to shut down, those moments to be alone and selfish.  Instead, we need to be open to the idea of compassion.  With compassion, Jesus healed the sick. Maybe if we found more moments of compassion, God would find more moments of opportunity to work through us for the good of someone else.