Monday, January 15, 2018

 GOD IS GOOD

The world continually belches out violence and evil, while many ask, "If God is so good, why does He allow evil?" Why the question? Hadn't God warned Adam and Eve not to partake of the tree of good and evil, which would result in spiritual and physical death? (Genesis 2:17) Instead, they chose Satan's lie, and death and sin became infused into the souls of mankind. Only through the cleansing blood of Christ could people be redeemed.
       Because of mankind's rebellion against God, He forewarned us of things to come: "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God  — having a form of godliness but denying it's power?(2 Timothy 1:3-9)
            [Satan], the god of this age, has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV). So, why are so many shocked by the direction our nation has taken? Why is God's goodness measured by the evil we see? God is not the problem, for God is good (Psalm 135:3). Sin is the problem; it hardens hearts and rejects God and His Word.
       God's Word warned that a time would come when people would not accept sound teaching, but would have itching ears and be drawn to teachers who suited their own passions (2 Timothy 4:3). Today's sinful passions are justified, and morality has been redefined. What was once called evil is now good, and what was good is now defined as evil. Who could have imagined 56 years ago, that the removal of prayer and Bibles from schools would send America into apostasy?
      The only way to change the world is through prayer and fasting. Christians are the Church. Each follower of Christ has been called to be a prayerful bulwark against evil that brings about violence and the breakdown of a moral society. Sadly, prayer has been left to the clergy, with many Christians engaging in prayer only when a desperate need arises. However, God calls His people to pray without ceasing, each devoted to prayer, while being watchful and thankful and always praying for all the Lord's people (Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18).
        In the Book of Revelation, the Lord addresses the people of God. His chastisement, encouragement, and warning is for the purpose of awakening us to repentance, prayer, and seeking Him with our whole heart:

THE DEAD CHURCH I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you." "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 1-6 NIV).
THE FAITHFUL CHURCH — "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied My name.  Since you have kept My command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 3:8-13 NIV).
THE LUKEWARM CHURCH “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:15-17) "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Rev. 3:19-20). He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 3:22 NKJV).
       God is sending a strong message to the people of God. Repent of your lukewarmness towards Me! I am looking for disciples who, regardless of life's challenges, will follow Me, pray to Me, learn of Me, fellowship with Me, embrace My will, trust Me, love Me, and be My voice. No longer can "Christians" be satisfied to live a minimal, Sunday only, Christian life as they pursue their own agenda and pleasures. "Know that I am gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love and good to all; I have compassion on all I have made" (Psalm 145:8-9). “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
      A "yoke" joins two oxen, so that they walk together harmoniously. It would be foolish to yoke a mule with an ox. Jesus cautioned us not to be unequally yoked with a non-believer, for one will pull against the other. In other words, we can't be yoked with the Lord and with the world (2 Corinthians 6:14). When yoked with Christ in mind and spirit, where He goes, we go with Him; His thoughts become our thoughts.
      God has not turned a blind eye to world events. He is waiting for His Church to arise from deadness and lukewarmness. If we want God's involvement in our lives and world affairs, then we must invite Him with our prayers. He is waiting for His people to become the "faithful church" that obeys Him in lifting holy hands and voices in praise and prayer, as they call upon Him, for He said to call on Him in the day of distress and He will deliver us, and we will glorify Him (Psalm 50:15).

PRAYER:
LORD, You call us to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek Your face, and to turn from any sinful, immoral, wrongful ways. Only then will we hear from heaven, and You will forgive our sins and heal our land. (2 Chronicles 7:14). I humbly repent of any lukewarmness or failure to daily pray with purpose and intent for the Church, this nation, our leaders, those in authority over us, my family and friends, and others that had been placed on my heart. Yoke me with You and Your purposes, so that I may be a part of the "Faithful Church" that accomplishes Your will on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus name, amen.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

SURRENDERED

The most difficult undertaking for any human being is to surrender their will to God. Our Adamic nature demands its own way, often at the expense of ignoring God and His Word. 

When I became a Christian 46 years ago, inviting Jesus Christ into my heart was just the first step. I then struggled with wanting the blessings of God, while compromising biblical truths. I quickly learned the folly of resisting the whole truth of God's Word and His will.

God issued a strong warning to all who try to take the middle ground, "I know you well—you are neither hot nor cold; I wish you were one or the other! But since you are merely lukewarm, I will spit you out of My mouth" (Revelations 3:15-16). Over the years, I have found that there is far more joy, peace, and happiness in surrendering all to the will of God, rather than riding the fence of compromise, which undermines the will and purposes of God. 

The Christian faith demands complete surrender of mind, body, spirit, and soul to God who created us. The word "surrender" means to relinquish, renounce, forgo, forswear; abdicate, forfeit, sacrifice; hand over, yield, and transfer. That requires forfeiting carnal, worldly desires and yielding to God's authority and purposes. Surrendering is ceasing to resist God, for He can do very little with us or for us, if we continually resist His will.

Surrender also means to relinquish or forego control. Unfortunately, our human nature wants to be in control, but God says, "Yield now and be at peace with [Me]; thereby, good will come to you" (Job 22:21). We must relinquish or let go of those fleshly desires and habits that are at enmity with God's Word, because He knows the beginning and ending of all things; failure to yield to Him will rob us of His blessings. 

Jesus told His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me (Matthew 16:24)What does it mean to deny self and take up our cross? When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was fully aware of the sacrifice He was about to make as He agonized in prayer to His Father,  "...if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). Imagine how different things would be for all of us had Jesus not surrendered His will to God.

Are you willing to lay down your life (your will) and take hold of all that the cross represents and say,  "Father, not my will, but Your will be done."  If we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, then He will exalt us at the proper time (I Peter 5:6). For we have been crucified with Christ. We no longer live for ourselves, but Christ lives in us. And the real life we now have within our body is a result of our trusting in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

Now we come to the question,  "How do Christians surrender to God?" The following are seven steps that I have discovered over the years. 

1. Daily surrender your heart and will to God. "Surrender to God! Resist the devil, and he will run from you" (James 4:7). The heart is the seat of our emotions, thoughts, intentions, and values. It either willfully follows sinful, carnal inclinations or it follows and seeks God's will and His Word. Therefore, His promise to us is that if we seek Him with all of our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).
   2. Follow and obey God in all that He asks. A follower of Christ will emulate Christ and His Word in their life choices, actions, and words, which in turn will influence others. Christ followers do not conform to the world's standards and morals. They renew their mind with the transforming Word of God, so that they may show others what the will of God is and what is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2).
   3. Study and believe God's Word. To expect God's best, we have to believe His Word. And in order to believe His Word, there must be a seeking to know and understand the heart of God through His Word. Therefore, the question remains, "Do we study and believe the Word of God, its promises, instructions, and warnings? Only by studying the Word, do we find its deeper secrets and truths. That is why we prayerfully study the Bible, precept upon precept, line upon line, so that we may understand its underlying lessons (Isaiah 28:10). When Jesus spoke in parables, there was a deeper meaning, only understood by those whose hearts had been transformed by His living Word (Mark 4:10-13).
   4. Wait upon God and His timing.  “Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him to act — Don’t fret and worry — it only leads to harm” (Psalm 37:7-8).  He says, “...My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” (Isaiah 55:8). We must trust God's timing of how, when and where He answers prayer. Rarely do His plans fit into our mindset or schedule, but when we trust Him, we find great joy, peace, rest, and contentment.
   5. Trust in the Lord.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart,  and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6). The greatest gift that comes from trusting God is a supernatural peace that rests in the knowledge that God our Father wants only good things for us, is always with us, and will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6-8).
   6. Persevere in Prayer.  We must be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12). Therefore, let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9).  To stop praying is to surrender to defeat and unbelief.
   7. Give thanks in all situations. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Giving thanks is a form of worship that acknowledges God's goodness and our willingness to trust Him in all circumstances.

Totally surrendering to God is liberating and life-changing. The enemy would have us believe that in surrendering our will to God, we are giving up everything that will make us happy in exchange for a life of sacrifice and pain. The truth is that in surrendering our will to God, we experience blessings, fulfillment and joy as He unfailingly directs, guides, corrects, nurtures, and loves us through the ups and downs of everyday life. 

PRAYER:
LORD, sometimes I resist yielding my will to You, because I am afraid I will be forced to live a boring, sacrificial life. Direct my steps to my destiny. Help me surrender my life and heart to You, Who is the only Source of true peace, blessings, fulfillment, and great joy. In Jesus name, amen.














Monday, December 11, 2017

OVERCOMING FEAR

I was in the yard watching my husband run an orange extension cord from the house to a yard ornament, when Brandi, our toy poodle,  became frightened of the cord. Even though I was holding and reassuring her, her fears could not be abated, and with cat-like deftness, she scurried onto my shoulder. 

Instantaneously, I thought how we are very much like Brandi when we experience something unfamiliar, threatening, out of our control, out of our comfort zone, or if asked to do something that is completely out of our wheelhouse.  Instead of trusting and resting in God and His direction, we retreat.


Nine years ago, when my husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 Thyroid cancer, our world was suddenly turned upside-down as we faced an uncertain future. Cancer was to us, like that orange cord was to Brandi. Frightened and confused, our minds struggled to grasp the enormity of a terminal diagnosis. However, with God's grace, we would move forward under His direction, and Michael would survive a difficult, fourteen-hour surgery that generated renewed hope.


Quickly, we both realized that our hope was not in man or what medical science could or could not do for us. Our hope had to rest in God, and that would mean pursuing Him with all of our heart, mind, and strength. He would become our ultimate source as we rested in Him rather than focusing on the grim prognosis. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower (Psalm 18:2).


Just as I am Brandi's loving provider for all of her needs, God has always been our constant, loving provider and source of strength, particularly during this continuing battle. Despite all that I have done and continue to do for our fur-baby, in that one fearful moment, she forgot who was holding her. We are no different. When trust wanes and fear takes over, we forget Who is holding us. But God tells us to trust Him in all things and all aspects of our lives. For He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might, He increases strength (Isaiah 40:29).


Trusting God and depending on His strength is essential in overcoming fear. The enemy will fill our mind with fearful scenarios. If we don't discern his strategy, we become the scriptwriter, producer, director, and the staring actor in our own scary movie. We dismiss God's gentle voice, His direction, comfort, and His promise to always be with us as He guides and directs us through the valleys and over the mountainous challenges.


Assuredly, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear us when we call to Him (Isaiah 59:1). Therefore, we are not to fear, for He is with us. We are not to be dismayed, for He is our God who strengthens and helps us and upholds us with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). 


During the past nine years, the cancerous nodules in Michael's lungs had been unchanging and stable. Then on August 1, 2017, we learned at his six-month cancer check, that the nodules had doubled in size and increased in number.


Many people don't know that Stage 4 Thyroid cancer metastasizes into the lungs. The FDA's approved treatment has many side affects and must be taken daily for the rest of the patient's life, costing $14,000 a month. Ergo, Michael opted for three months of experimental treatments at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He is the eighteenth of twenty patients enrolled in the program.


From the beginning of what has become a nine-year journey, Michael and I knew that to face this challenge and to overcome fear, we would need to make a daily, conscientious effort to trust God, for trusting Him is the key to faith. Because it is impossible to trust God if faith is misplaced in our own abilities, people, or the world's offerings. If trust is placed in what we see instead of God's promises, then trust and faith in God will falter. That is why it is critical to daily communicate with God. If not, we are susceptible to the enemy's fiery-darted lies. 

Satan is the great deceiver, manipulator, and distorter of all truth. Therefore, we must be able to discern between what comes from the father of lies and what comes from God, Who is the Originator of all truth. And it is truth that uncovers deceptions and extinguishes all fear.


Fear is defined as fright, panic, agitation, dread, distress, anxiety, apprehensiveness, worry, and nervousness. All of us have experienced those emotions, but unabated fear will paralyze faith. God's Word tells us that there is no fear in love. God's perfect love casts our fear, because fear involves torment. He who fears has not been made perfect in love (I John 4:18).

Do you see that? Fear is torment! Torment is agony, suffering, torture, pain, anguish, misery, distress, and affliction. Fear manipulates and causes us to make rash decisions. Fear denies the delivering power of God. Fear causes us to doubt God and His Word. Fear distorts and twists the truth and causes us to believe a lie. Fear misleads and misguides. But God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

We are not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, we are to present our requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). 

Surrendering and entrusting all to God results in a peace that goes far beyond anything that the world could offer. That is why we are urged to be strong and courageous and not be afraid, for the Lord our God goes with us and never forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Michael and I continue this journey with our hope placed in God. None of us can know the future, but each day we purposefully and expectantly place our lives in His loving hands. What better hands could we find rest, hope, and healing than in God's hands that created us?

PRAYER:

LORD, thank you for Your loving hand that leads and guides me over and through what appears to be insurmountable. Give me revelation of Your Word. "Show me Your ways, Lord; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long" (Psalm 25:4-5). You alone are my strength, and I will praise You, who counsels me. Help me to keep my eyes always on You, for with You at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:7-8). In Jesus name, amen.