Thursday, December 15, 2011

Season of Advent....

Advent. The reflection on the expectancy, anticipation and longing for a Savior who will stamp out injustice and punish sin.  A yearning for deliverance during a time where there was so much oppression.  We are living in such a time right now, so it seems.  People are taking substantial cuts in pat and losing their jobs; the cost of living is increasing; our seniors, who should be able to retire, are forced to work into their 70’s to make end meet;  the rich get richer and the poor get poorer; the mismanagement or out right theft of money by city, state and federal officials who are supposed to be public servants - causing many to take pay cuts that will lead to foreclosure and an inability to support their families; elderly people who cannot afford the medical treatment and medicine that they need to stay alive.  These are the times and conditions in which we are living. Just as the people then cried out for a savior.  We too, cry out, some of us longing for Jesus to come back.  I am certainly guilty of that.  But I am reminded of Amos and his prophetic word in chapter 5 (read the entire chapter for context), warning us that God’s judgement of sin applies to all of us. 
Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD!  Why do you long for the day of the LORD?  That day will be darkness, not light.  It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.  Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?  Are we ready?  Insomuch as we long for a savior to deliver us from the sinful injustice and the oppressive hand of the wicked, we must also examine ourselves to ensure that we are not contributors to or co-conspirators in the evil that we seek deliverance from.  We must seek the Lord in order to be successful in this effort. 
This is what the LORD says to Israel:  “Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba. For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing”.  Seek the LORD and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it.  While we wait, we must seek Him.  Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba were all at some point places of spiritual growth and heritage, but became places of empty worship.  If I may take some license, you may not be able to go to those places that you are used to going for spiritual growth and to hear from the Lord.  YOU are going to have to seek Him and Him alone in order to live.  
During this season of Advent, of waiting and expectation my prayer, as I seek Him, is that Jesus comes and infiltrates every area of my life.  I know that I am less than victorious in several areas because of my own disobedience.  I want to be ready when He comes.  I look with expectancy for Jesus to winnow away all things that cause me to sin, to cut it out at the root and destroy it.  I long for Jesus to speak to me and then give me the strength to do exactly what He says to do.  What will you focus on during this season of Advent? 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Satan is a Liar.....

...............He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44
The Devil is many things, but at the crux of his being, at the crux of his very character is untruth.  Such care he takes to attack us in those areas of our lives where we struggle.  Always there with the quick fix and quick answer, appealing to our fleshly desires, convincing us that it is ok as long as we are happy.  I am here to tell you, not what I think, but what I know.  The devil exists to kill steal and destroy and he has many people living in a state of confusion.  God created us in His image and has given us an absolute moral law by which to conduct our lives.  He gives us this law so that we will live eternally, as He intended.  Every word in the Bible is true and the devil knows this fact better than anyone. Because he knows it is true, he has dedicated his time trying to convince us that it is a lie.  He perverts everything that is Holy and convinces us that it is acceptable - and unfortunately we buy in to it, hook, line and sinker - and consequently choose to live in a state of sin.
Satan was an angel named Lucifer and was known for his beauty and splendor.  He believed that he could exalt himself above God and was cast out of Heaven. God desired for Lucifer to repent, but instead Lucifer did not. God kicked Lucifer out of Heaven (Ezekiel 28:15-20) and Lucifer convinced several other angels to rebel and leave Heaven with him. Lucifer, now Satan continues to convince  multitudes of people to turn away from God just as he did and turn to him in a life of sin and corruption of heart.  Sadly, many follow. 
 Satan preys on our weaknesses.  He establishes what will make you happy and then provides it  - and you will embrace it because it addresses your desire and your longing and makes you happy.  You indulge in the activity because Satan has convinced you that you are now complete.  You are not complete.  In fact, you are broken and more tragically, you are in broken relationship with the one who created you, God. Satan encourages us to re-write God’s law and precepts for our lives.  He tells us if it feels good, do it.  This is why we see so many people engaging in “open marriages” where it is acceptable in their minds to invite other men and women into their marriage bed as long as it is mutually agreed upon.  This is why young women are wearing provocative clothing to school, begging to be noticed and accepted.  This is why young women are engaging in sexual activity with multiple partners because they want to feel “loved”.  This is why people betray confidences and set traps for people at the workplace so that they can get ahead.  This is why young men seek to have sex with as many young women as possible due to some misguided belief that this somehow makes them a man.  This is why the 105 pound young lady perceives herself to be too heavy and doesn’t like herself all from an outwardly and inwardly perspective.  Satan would have you think that you are not good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough -and he will lead you into a downward spiral of self mutilation and ultimately death.  God has laid out a model of behavior and mode of thinking for our lives, yet we allow satan to appeal to our base desires and need for instant gratification and we begin to operate outside of the will of God.  
Recently a brilliant, loving, kind and caring young man took his own life.  It broke my heart to think of the hopelessness he must have felt. So much hopelessness when the life changing, liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ is available.  It broke my heart.  He struggled with severe obesity and was extremely self conscious about that fact.  Multiple weight loss surgeries proved to make him thinner, but not happier and so the weight returned.  There seemed to be so much sadness in his life.  Even when he spoke words of hope, sadness remained in the background and was evident to me in his eyes.  There was an unsuccessful prior attempt of suicide years prior and I held out hope that his mindset would shift to that of a mind of Christ “Let this mind be in you which is also in Christ Jesus”.  So much self hatred.  So much self loathing which is a mindset that comes only from the devil.  Satan convinced this young man that he was not worth anything and then proceeded to rob him of what should have been an abundant life, and then ultimately led him into a tragic end.  Satan offers death.  God offers life, not only here, but beyond the grave into eternity.
We are all victims of satan’s attacks in our mind.  Remember that Jesus is greater than satan and if we would choose to resist the devil from the first moment that a thought contrary to the word of God enters our minds, then the Bible says he will flee.  Satan is relentless in his pursuit, but we have the spirit of God living within us and He has already defeated satan.  Choose God, His will and His way.  It is a perfect prescription for your life.  Listen to the voice of God and ignore the voice of satan.  God is your creator, Jesus is your savior and satan is a liar.
Be Blessed......

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Freedom in Christ.....

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.   Galatians 5:1
Freedom, it is what all desire and many have died to obtain and protect.  It is why revolutions are initiated and why wars are fought.  But what does freedom mean for the Christian?  The bible tells us that whom the Son sets free is free indeed.  But free from what?  To be free from something suggests that prior to being freed one was in bondage.  For the Christian, the battle for freedom is won in the mind - not by might and not by power. Paul, while imprisoned - locked up and behind bars, was freer than his jailers because He knew and applied the truth of the Gospel and that is what set Him free.  Jesus Himself, bound and nailed to the cross, facing certain death, was freer than those who placed Him there because He was in fact the epitome and personification of freedom.  Freedom is to be free from anything that binds us, holds us captive or enslaves us - preventing us from doing the will of the Father as He commands.  It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are made free from sin.  When we choose to believe in Him and the completeness and fullness of His sufficiency, we are free.  It is amazing the freedom that is available to us, yet we oftentimes choose to remain enslaved.  Christ has provided freedom, but to take advantage of that freedom and really live in it we must choose to do so.  
I believe in Jesus Christ and I trust and depend on Him, however, there are times and situations when I would have liked to believe that I was trusting Him, but in actuality I was not.  When my mother passed away, it was a difficult and trying time - not solely due to her passing- but more so because of the lack of relationship between us. Most people will never understand that - after all, there is nothing more precious than a relationship between a mother and her child. This was not the case in my situation.  There was a great deal of hurt in my heart and I could not seem to let go of it (in actuality I chose not to let go of it).  When I left home to attend college, I never looked back. I returned home very infrequently.  I thought by moving away I would be free from that hurt and pain. I had a very loving and blessed upbringing, however, I was missing and longing for a close mother/daughter relationship.  Relationally, my father became both mother and father to me.  He was a living, breathing example of the love of Jesus.  Seeing his love for Christ in action is what inspired my pursuit of Christ. Even with this great foundation in Christ I was still in bondage when it came to relating to my mother.   Instead of asking God to remove that hurt (as I had done as it related to other areas of my life) I embraced that hurt and allowed it to drive an even further wedge between us.  I stayed away because it was easier to seemingly remove myself from the source of the hurt than to deal with it. Physically leaving home did not free me from the bondage of that hurt. There were a myriad of different issues surrounding my mother’s care, the house, the estate.  It became overwhelming and I did not handle any of it well.  I sit here now, looking back on that time, wondering how I can profess Christ and the liberty that He provides, and have been so bound.  I acted as if He did not own a cattle on a thousand hills; I acted as if He was not a deliverer; I acted on my own power, taking the lead instead of following Him.  At the end of it all I was a failed witness for Him.  Freedom was available to me because He died to set me free.  But I was living an enslaved existence in this situation because I did not choose to walk in that freedom.  The freedom needed to occur in my heart and mind by asking God to break those chains of slavery.  Freedom was not going to be obtained by moving away. Changing location is just geography - where I went, my heart and mind went also - and my heart and mind were unchanged.  I did not stand firm and I allowed myself to be burdened by a yolk of slavery.  
Freedom comes from applying His word to every situation.  It comes from trusting and believing that His way is the only way.  Everything else is bondage. Trusting in your own strength is bondage.  Trusting in your own mind and heart is bondage.  Look at what was in my heart.  I trusted it, and ultimately failed.  I have spoken with so many people who are searching for freedom and the peace that it brings  -but they are searching within themselves, void of Jesus; and unfortunately, they will never find it. Let us pray for one another that we stand firm (in the Word of God) and do not allow ourselves to become burdened again by a yolk of slavery.
Be blessed.....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where He leads you, follow....

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

As I get older and my children start to leave the nest, I find myself in a deeply reflective mode.  I have been looking back at my life, analyzing how I have spent the time God has blessed me with thus far.  I can honestly say that I have spent the last 18 years or so on the grind.  Always rushing.  Rushing to get to work, rushing to get to the grocery store before work, rushing to get the girls to school on time in the morning after working until 2am the night before.  Even when working in the ministry it was always a grind.  Rushing to meet deadlines, contending with the administration to fund the ministry, rushing to endless meetings to discuss the same issues over and over again.  It all became such a chore, to the point of displeasure.  I spent more time meeting and less time praying.  Somehow, in all of the rushing and running, I lost myself and quite frankly, lost my way.  My devotion time with God began to suffer.  I was spending less time studying the Word and even less time in serious prayer.  I prayed, but did not spend that quality time in the presence of the Lord seeking His will for me and asking Him to change anything in me that was not pleasing to Him.  My sincere pursuit of God and His will for me waned, and it became evident in my attitude and the decisions I made.  
I have spent some time on the threshing floor, on the anvil, allowing God to make and mold me.  The process of God winnowing away the things that are not like Him is as amazing thing to witness and experience.  I am still in a redevelopment stage and God has showed me His grace and mercy through it all.  He has control and I am blessed to just follow.  While in this mode God has placed in my life several people for me to minister to on a continual basis.  It is amazing to me the number of people whom I have witnessed to and then had the privilege of continuing to discuss the Word.  They are open and desire to know the Lord more intimately, and to learn His precepts.  It is a beautiful thing to behold.  This burden of discipling people in the faith is an awesome task, one  that quite frankly, I am not worthy of.  But no one but God could have placed these people in my life, and so I am praying daily for the Holy Spirit to give me the words to say as well as the way in which to present it.    
There has long been a longing in my heart and spirit to minister to people.  I always thought that - that primarily took place within the confines of a church.  I have visions of a church where the true spirit of the Lord dwells.  Where people would come in and be saved, transformed, healed and delivered.  A place where we would bring folk to Christ, through our example, deeds, prayer and teaching of the Word.  It has literally broken my heart to see the legalism which Jesus spoke out against so vehemently, set up residence in the church.  To see the havoc and broken relationship that legalism leaves in its wake is devastating.  It has restored such joy and hope in my heart to be able to present Jesus in all of his beauty, with His offering of joy, love, forgiveness and hope to those who are broken and lost, without having to battle the constant living examples of contradiction.    In spite of all of that, to see the process of people’s liberation in Christ, is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  
The great hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour” is one that has profoundly ministered to me lately - “I need Thee, Oh I need Thee. Every Hour I need Thee.  Oh, bless me now my Savior, I come to Thee”.  We must come to Him for everything.  We cannot operate in our own strength, nor can we depend on ourselves. He tells us in John 15:5 that “apart from Me you can do nothing”.  We must recognize that our hope is in Jesus Christ and that it is in Him that we live, move and have our being.  Decisions, thoughts, actions, separate from Him will ultimately fail us.  I recognize my need for Him every second of every minute of every hour of the day.  I seem to be at a crossroad and I am going to wait at that fork in the road until God reveals to me which way to go.  Waiting at that intersection is a difficult, yet humbling experience.  But I am going with Him all the way.  I encourage you to do the same.  Do not be discouraged by what you see others doing.  Do not be discouraged by those who are professed Christians that do not operate in truth.  We all sin and fall short of the glory of God.  That is why your ultimate example of who and what to be is Jesus Christ.  The only man that was without sin, the only one worthy to die as a perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world.  Continue to seek God, do not stop your pursuit of Him.  Slow down, make your time with God a priority above everything else. God has a plan for you.  Ask Him what His purpose is for you within His kingdom and then live in that purpose.  Seek Him - Wait on Him - and Trust Him.
Be blessed.......

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The beauty of the Word of God...

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes--the Jew first and also the Gentile.     Romans 1:16

The Word of God is the power unto salvation.  It is essential.  It is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.  It instructs and corrects.  You can hear the Word and not really HEAR the Word.  Hear it and then pray for God to add understanding to it.  You must know the authentic Word of God so that you can recognize the counterfeit.  There is nothing more dangerous than an unauthentic Word stated as truth.  It equals bondage and death - and satan loves it.  Churches are filled with folk in bondage due to lack of the knowledge of the truth.  Lively praise and animated worship.  Folk up dancing and shouting - but no real change occurs.  It is tragic to me and there is a grieving deep in my heart over it.  My prayers to God are infiltrated with a travailing for the people of God.  People whom I love with all of my heart.  I can see Jesus standing at the door knocking, always on the outskirts, always kept in a peripheral view but never quite brought into full focus.  Good people who will believe just about anything that the preacher or someone whom they perceive to be more knowledgeable than them says. The fact of the matter is that Christ died once for ALL.  He is made manifest in each and everyone of us who believes in Him and He will reveal the truth of Himself to you no matter your stature or position in life.  God is not a respecter of person.  He loves us all equally.  Although we sin, although we fall, He is right there loving us.  He loves His people, even in our ignorance He loves us.  It is why He left Jonah with no shade and why Moses never entered the promised land.  People of God, arm yourselves with the Word of God.  Read it, meditate on it, seek the Lord for understanding of it and ask Him what assignment He has for you in the body of Christ for the building of His Kingdom.  He is faithful to reveal it.
I was raised in church and learned scripture from a very young age. I was introduced to Christ in church but I really met Him while on my knees in a quiet place far away from church.   My church had no tambourines, no drum sets and not a lot of clapping.  We sang hymns, anthems, cantatas and sacred music accompanied only by the piano and organ.  Every Sunday I sat in the presence of a great preacher who would get up every Sunday to preach the Gospel.  No hooping.  No hollering.  No theatrics.  He stood up, flat footed and sure - and proclaimed the Word of God.  He preached with great authority and assurance.  He provided factual historical and biblical context.  His sermons were instructional and educational, equipping the congregation with the necessary tools to go out into the world and be fishers of men.  His sermons were packed with instruction on holy living, and it is was there that I learned the nature of God. I learned who the person of Jesus Christ was and what His sacrifice on the cross meant for me personally as well as its impact on the world.  Of course, when I was younger, I did not fully understand all of these things (not that I fully understand them now), but it gave me a solid foundation.  It is that foundation, that Biblical truth that is my measuring stick for everything.  Even with this great foundational teaching, I still had to get to know God for myself.  I had to experience the manifestation of God in my life.  I had to get into His presence and ask Him to preach and speak to me.  It is my constant prayer for God to clean out everything that is not like Him in order that I might be of use to Him in spreading His Gospel.  God is ever teaching and correcting me and I am so thankful for that.  God will do the same for you!  If you feel as if you do not have a good foundation you can get one today.  God is waiting. Salvation is free and His Word is available to ALL.  The book of John is a great place to start.
I encourage all preachers, leaders, teachers of the Gospel to simply teach the word of God and the full sufficiency of Jesus Christ.  Preach Christ crucified.  Make equipping your congregants with the true word of God your top priority - it will win countless souls for Christ.  It will produce a mighty army of men and women of God who will move the Church of Christ and God will add to it daily.  Through the truth of His Gospel people will be set free - for whom the son sets free is free indeed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Wretch Like Me.......

The more I seek God, the more He reveals to me about myself. It is amazing how God moves and works in the lives of His children. My study, devotion and prayer life have continued, however, I have not been attending church. In fact, I haven't been to church since April. This past Sunday my husband simply told me that I needed to get up and go to church - so I did. I had been struggling, asking the Lord to please change my heart, mind and my tongue. My prayer was for help in tuning out every voice but His so that I could learn of Him and grow. As sincere as I believe my worship is, I was beginning to wonder if God was accepting it. Was He pleased with me? I am so unworthy. A wretch. I longed for some perspective on my thoughts and feelings. He spoke to me through a preacher at Calvary Chapel. I had never attended this church before but found myself driving down the 405 freeway, south bound to Costa Mesa, California on a beautiful Sunday morning. God met me there and spoke directly to me.

The preacher preached on the intimacy in which God has relationship with His children. I needed desperately to be reminded of how perfectly He knows us, and always has each one of us on His mind. We are His creation. We are His children and nothing can separate us from His love for us. No matter who we are He loves us. When others cast us out, He extends a hand of love, grace and mercy. God has really led me to look inward. To take a good hard look at myself. I believe that in one of my earlier posts I mentioned the fact that God revealed some things that were in my heart that I did not like, and more importantly, that He did not like. There was no running from it, however, the mistake I was making was in looking at myself through my eyes and not through the eyes of God. Seeing myself in His reflection allowed me to see my error, ask for forgiveness, and then ask for His precious Holy Spirit to aid me in truly turning away from even every thought that sought or seeks to exalt itself above Him. The preacher used several scriptures in his sermon that day but Matthew 10:29-31 was what spoke to me:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  God's intimate and loving relationship with us is so very beautiful. When i am witnessing to people on the street, He was there. When I was talking badly about my neighbor, He was there. When I was in the hospital giving birth to our son, who had no heart beat and no breath in his body, He was there. When I was less than compassionate towards another child of God, He was there. The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding both the good and the evil. And so, the omnipresence of God is both comforting and convicting. A loving Father who knows every hair on my head and then assures me that He takes care of even the sparrow - so how much more then does he care for even a wretch like me.......

If you do not know God and have not accepted Jesus Christ as savior, then I invite you to accept Him and the truth of His Gospel right now. I don't know what I would do without Him. My life has meaning because of Him. You having nothing to lose but everything to gain. Ask Him with a sincere heart - Lord, if you are who you say you are, reveal yourself to me right now. When He does,  do NOT reject that revelation. He stands at the door of your heart knocking....answer.

Be blessed...................

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Offer Christ.....

If I can help somebody as I travel along.  If I can help somebody with a word or song.  If I can help somebody from doing wrong.  Then my living shall not be in vain......Mahalia Jackson

My girls and I were coming home from church one evening.  I stopped for gas on the corner of Adams and Figueroa.  As I exited my vehicle to pump gas I was approached by a gentleman asking for money.  As he approached my car he assured me that he meant no harm.  I told him that I didn't think that he did.  As my gas pumped, he began to tell me his story. Charles Began to tell me his story.  I listened intently as he told me about how he was laid off the year prior and lost his apartment as a result.  He was unable to find work.  He became depressed and started to abuse alcohol and eventually ended up living on the street.  He went from being gainfully employed to homeless in the matter of a few months.  At this point my gas tank was full and the girls were looking at me as if to say "can we please go".  I was at the pump another 30 minutes - listening to Charles pour his heart out - and quite articulately I might add.

Charles had been living in the alley way in between the Mobile Gas Station and the First Lutheran Church.  He spent his days panhandling, hoping that someone would give him some change for pumping their gas or washing their windows.  One day, he approached a man to offer his services.  He explained that he was in a foul mood that day and was really feeling sorry for himself.  He had watched people go in and out of the church next door and wondered how God could be so close, yet so out of reach.  He was talking to himself, complaining about his condition and using foul language.  The man approached Charles to encourage him, and told him that he was the store manager of CVS Drug Store.  He told Charles that he would grant him an interview for a job opening and gave him a time and date.  Charles had lived in the alley way for some time and was known by the gas station employees.  One of them brought him clean clothes, allowed him to wash in the gas station bathroom, and gave him bus fare to get to CVS for his interview.  Charles interviewed and was offered the job.

When I met Charles at the gas station that night, he had just completed his first 6 weeks of work.  He told me that being employed again gave him a sense of accomplishment and worth.  He took his first paycheck and used it all to put a deposit on a studio apartment.  "It's only one tine room.  I don't have any furniture.  But it's home".  He then pulled a single silver key out of his pocket, showed it to me and said that - that key meant everything to him.  I asked him why he was back at the gas station asking for money.  He was shaven and had slacks and a shirt on.  He explained to me that because he had spent all of his check on the apartment, he did not have any money left over for bus fare to get to work - but that he was not complaining.  He needed to make it to work one more week, at which time he would receive his check and be on track.  

I thanked him for sharing his story with me and that God had truly delivered him.  He told me that he loved God but thought God had abandoned him.  I told him that the promises of God are true, and that he could depend on them - God promised to never leave us or forsake us and that His grace was sufficient for us.  To the shock and horror of my girls, Charles reached out and gave me a hug.  I hugged him back and gave him
some money.  He was so thankful.  I told him to thank God - the provision came from Him.

This kind of interaction is what I live for.  There is nothing more beautiful than sharing Jesus Christ with someone who does not know Him.  I wish you could have seen the tears in his eyes as he showed me that key.  He was proud and accomplished.  God had restored what was lost in his life.  He thought that Jesus was just in a church - but now he knows that Jesus seeks inside of him if he believes.  Passing on that kind of truth and freedom to someone else is glorious to me.  Telling him about the omnipresent nature of God -  that no matter where he is God will be also.  God loved us enough to send His son.  Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice on Calvary - because of that we can be forgiven and walk in freedom and victory.  I encourage you to take every opportunity to offer Jesus.  The holy spirit will give you the words to say.  Change someone's life by introducing them to or reacquainting them with the great liberator - Jesus the Christ........