Friday, August 22, 2014

The Fly Swatter

We see metaphors of God's Word in everyday life. This morning, I was awakened by the buzzing sound of an annoying fly. It continued to buzz around my head, as I attempted to read the Word. This persistent fly would not leave me alone. Deciding that I had enough of my unwanted visitor, I went to the living room to continue reading and praying. Yes, you guessed it; the pesky annoyance followed me. He was determined to distract and disrupt my peace and time with God.

No matter how much I tried to ignore him and concentrate on God's Word, his aerial feats became more aggressive and the buzzing of his wings sounded more like a jet engine, as he relentlessly dive-bombed my head. That's when I decided to take matters into my own hands. 

I retrieved the fly swatter from the hall closest and with stealth-like determination, set on a mission to rid myself of the pest. Standing in the living room, my eyes scanned the area, watching and waiting for another attack, when suddenly I spied the nasty little pest, happily resting on my Bible.

Just then, an amazing revelation came to me. Satan is like that fly. He's constantly buzzing around us like a drone. His mission is to torment, annoy, impair, and distract us from our relationship with God. His buzzing is filled with negative words, concerns, and thoughts that become so loud, that we can't concentrate on anything else. Instead of immediately dealing with him, we try to ignore or move away from his assaults. Yet those nagging thoughts and distractions follow us no matter where we go.

How ironic that of all places that the little intruder could have landed, he landed on my opened Bible, where, most appropriately, he met his demise. Fortunately, his mess was not left on the page, unlike the mess that Satan works to leave on the pages of our lives.

First, we must understand that Satan is a defeated foe. Yet, we often forget to wield the sword of God's Word. When we take a stand and speak the Word, we see the enemy retreat. Isn't that what Jesus did when Satan came to tempt Him in the desert? Three times Satan challenged Jesus, and three times Jesus spoke the Word to Satan. What happened? Satan left, and angels came and ministered to Jesus. Have we not been called to emulate our Lord and speak the Word?

A centurion approached Jesus and explained that his servant was sick with palsy and "grievously tormented." Jesus agreed to come and heal him, but the centurion said something remarkable. "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof: but speak the Word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come, ' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this, ' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, He "marveled," and said, "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." (Matthew 8:5-11)
Like this centurion, who recognized the dynamics of authority, we are to use authority provided through the sacrificial, cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. We must put that faith and authority into action and speak God's Word with full expectation that His Word will not return to us void.  For God said, "So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)  
When we speak God's Word, it does not return to us empty. It prospers! As join-heirs with Christ, we are called to speak His Word and expect the enemy to retreat. Although Satan roams the earth as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, he was defeated at Calvary's cross (I Peter 5:8).
The next time the enemy flies around your head with deafening distractions, or  thoughts of hopelessness, doubt, unbelief, accusations, distrust, self-recrimination and failure, remember that you carry a powerful "fly swatter" - the Word of God. Use it today, and speak the Word.
Submit your selves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Note: Satan is referred to in scripture as Beelzebub, meaning prince of the flies, a.k.a. prince of demons. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Promise Keeper

Have you ever made a promise, and then broke it? Possibly someone made a promise to you, and that promise was broken? Have you stopped trusting a friend or family member, because of broken promises?  I would imagine that at one time or another, all of us have either broken a promise or have experienced a broken promise by someone. Either way, for the one who has been promised, the result can be disappointing and in some cases, devastating.
What is a promise? A promise is a vow or declaration or an explicit statement assuring that what has been promised will come to pass. However, there is another element to the "promise," and that is trust. The promisee trusts that the promiser will fulfill their word.
What is trust? It is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone. Unfortunately, humans, being the imperfect and fallible people that we are, can fail in keeping promises, thereby creating trust issues with others.
Children are the most vulnerable to failed promises, because they are the most trusting. They assume that when someone makes a promise, especially a parent, then they will keep their word. For that reason, promises should never be made in haste. It is especially egregious, when a parent continually makes hollow promises that are never fulfilled. Eventually the child grows into a cynical adult who finds it difficult to trust the word of someone in authority, let alone God.  
The good news is this: God is The faithful Promise Keeper. He not only makes promises, He keeps them. His mercy is in the heavens; His faithfulness reaches to the clouds. (Psalm 36:5). We are called to trust in the Lord, to do good, to dwell in His kingdom, and to feed on His faithfulness (Psalm 37:3).
We have this blessed assurance that we can know more of God's promises, kindness and peace, if we learn to know Him better. If we know Him, then we know and emulate His character, for we are called to be imitators of Christ. We strive to do what is right, keeping our promises and living lives of integrity. For in knowing Him, we know His great power and everything that we need to know for living a good life that comes from Him. It is by His mighty power that we receive all the rich and wonderful blessings that He promised (II Peter 1:2-4).
Our dedication and faith in the Lord and His promises are tested daily by the world around us. Doubt and fear constantly strive to diminish our faith and effectiveness for the Kingdom of God. They stand at the door of our hearts, demanding entrance, for doubt and fear are no respecters of persons. Even John the Baptist, one of the greatest prophets to serve God, was assailed by doubts and fears that eventually caused him to question God's promises.
God had revealed to John his mission to preach repentance. It’s clear John knew his mission when he said, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11-12).
Jesus came to the River Jordan to be baptized by John, who immediately recognized Jesus as the Anointed One. John said, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered John, Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3-15 HCSB).
When Jesus came "up out of the water," heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting (giving spiritual illumination by divine truth) upon Him. And a voice from heaven said, This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased (verses 16-17).
John was not only a participant in the baptism of our Lord, but he witnessed God's acknowledgement of His only Son, Jesus. You would think that such an event would have forever sealed and secured John’s faith in Jesus, His mission, and His promises.
Fast-forward to John, sitting in a cold, dark, damp prison, where he is beginning to question whether he has been right in believing that Jesus was indeed the long awaited Messiah. Was he mistaken? Had he sacrificed all for nothing? He is facing death and needs to have his doubts alleviated by the One in Whom he has believed and trusted. So when he receives word about the works of Christ, he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Had John forgotten that Jesus was the Promise whom the prophets had spoken of?
Jesus does not chastise John for his doubts; rather, He sends words of assurance to him. The blind see and the lame walk: the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear: the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them (Matthew 11:2-5). Blessed are those who do not give up their faith because of Me. (Matthew 11:6 NIRV)
John had doubts. If he doubted, then why should we believe that doubts could not assail us? We are but human vessels that can succumb to doubts, fears, and unbelief in an unguarded moment or in the most trying of circumstances.
Has God made a promise to you, and you have not seen the first sign of it coming to pass or even a glimmer of a potential breakthrough? Is doubt creeping in and pushing out the promise? Although John had his doubts, it was Jesus to whom he sent word to, because deep within his heart, he knew that Jesus' Word was truth, and He could trust Him.
When doubts fill our mind with negative thoughts and we begin to question God's goodness and His promises, we must go to Jesus and His Word for His truth and assurances, just as John had. John sent word to Jesus, who is the incarnation of God's Word and promises, and Jesus returned His Word to John that his faith might be strengthened and his doubts and fears alleviated. We are strengthened through Jesus who is the Word and the embodiment of TRUTH, FAITH, HOPE, LOVE and PROMISE.
Do you have a prayer that is yet to be answered? Have you questioned whether you really heard from God? Have you appeared foolish to others for obeying God's instructions and believing for the impossible? Are you questioning if God's promises were only for biblical times, and not for today?
In my life, I can answer an unequivocal, "Yes, yes, yes, and yes!" Fortunately, I have learned through all the emotions of trusting, doubting, waiting, and hoping, that God is THE Promise Keeper; He is not man who can lie (Numbers 23:19). 
We become entangled in our own self-doubts, because we have been recipients of failed promises made by people whom we trusted. In addition, we have been trained by a fast paced, microwave, "see it before you believe it" world to expect instant answers and gratification. The bare truth is that our timetable is not God's timetable. We must wait upon the Lord, for those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
I have seen the wisdom of God's timing of events in my own life.  His delays are truly not His denials. He has proven over and over again that His ways, purposes, and thoughts are above and beyond human understanding. Faith patiently waits and trusts in God's plan, the means by which He delivers His plan to us, and His timing.
The enemy loves to manipulate our mind through fear, doubt and unbelief. If he can convince us that all that we have believed has been in vain, then he has us in that valley of despair and unbelief, where hope can be deferred or lost. Remember that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
Thomas, who had hope in Jesus as the Messiah, lost hope upon Jesus' death. When told of Jesus' resurrection, Thomas said, Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. Eight days later, the disciples and Thomas were gathered together when Jesus came through a locked door (a human impossibility) and said to Thomas, Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. And Thomas answered and said to Him, My Lord and my God! Jesus then said to Thomas, ...because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Johns 20:25-29).
Faith believes before it sees, for Jesus said that those who believe His promises, without first seeing proof, will be the ones who receive His promises. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen ("so be it"), to the glory of God through us. (II Corinthians: 1:20-21 NKJV). Therefore, let not your heart be troubled, but believe the One whose promises are Yes and Amen.
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run, and not be weary; And they shall walk, and not faint."  (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)
Note: You may wonder why I chose a picture of an Iris flower for "The Promise Keeper." The Iris represents "a promise." 




Friday, August 8, 2014

GOD'S AMAZING LESSONS

God reveals His wonderful truths in the most ordinary, life experiences. I never cease to be astonished in how He uses His Word, His Holy Spirit, and His creation to lovingly instruct, guide, and correct us. He continuously speaks to us, if we just take the time to pay attention and listen. The following are just a few of God's amazing lessons that I have learned.

                         "Me Do It"
Forty years ago, my three year-old son's experience with his bike taught me a very valuable lesson. As a divorced mother, I had been struggling with some things that I had been praying earnestly about and begging God to answer, but as the months turned into years and no answers came, I begin to think that God just didn't care, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. Fortunately, God has a wonderful way of communicating with us, if we are paying attention.

My young son had just learned to ride a small bicycle. One hot summer day, he rolled his bike, with chain dragging, into the living room, and said, "Mommy, please fix my bike." I knelt down and made a few valiant attempts to wrangle the slippery chain back into place. The only thing I succeeded in doing was getting my hands greasy. With mouth set in firm determination, success was finally a breath away. And then it happened. With one big push, and a shout of, "Me do it, Mommy!" my son managed to knock me off balance.

Immediately, God's gentle voice spoke into my spirit and said, "This is what my children do. They ask for My help and then when I am about to answer their prayer, they take the problem back and try to fix it on their own."

Of course you know the ending to this story. My son became frustrated with his futile attempts and eventually gave the job back to me. Isn't that what we do with God? We ask Him to help us, but when He doesn't move in our time, or to our liking, we decide to fix it ourselves...and often our attempts fail miserably. Then when we have exhausted all of our own efforts, we return to God, pleading with Him to fix the mess that we have created.

When we ask God for help we must remember that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). We can ask God for help, but then we must trust not only in His timing, but also that the help that He provides is exactly what we need and not necessarily what we want. If we will commit our way to the Lord and trust in Him, then He will bring it to pass...in His time (Psalm 37:5). Remember, God's delays are not His denials, for He knows what is best for us. What we receive, how we receive it, and when we receive it will depend on our heart attitude. He is always more concerned with our motives then He is with providing a quick solution that will only give us temporary happiness.

God did answer my prayer...five years later. You see, my heart had been filled with unforgiveness and bitterness, but when I let go of those destructive emotions and forgave, my prayer was answered.  
God wants to build the inner man, and change those things that prevent us from becoming grounded in His love and receiving all that He has for us. Only then can we love, trust, and obey Him with complete abandonment. That surrendering of our will allows us to trust Him and know that He will do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20). My Lord has done and continues to do exceedingly, abundantly more then I could ever think to ask of Him.
Today, ask yourself if you have really surrendered to Him those things that weigh heavily on your heart, or have you become discouraged because the answers are not forthcoming. Maybe you've decided to take matters into your own hands. Often God's delays are for the purpose of growing and training us. Whatever your situation may be, rest in the knowledge that God is faithful and He will answer you...in His time.

Treats That Teach

Brandi is our sweet-natured and affectionate Toy Poodle who loves to please. She especially looks forward to her training, which is rewarded by lots of praise and treats. I have observed that I can give her a very small treat, a medium size treat, or a large treat, and she always responds with the same joyous enthusiasm. Despite the size of the treat, her behavior consistently expresses total gratitude.

Her exuberant response to any size treat, gave me pause to reflect on how we should respond to our heavenly Father, who gives to us so generously. Yet how often have we been ungrateful and shown our displeasure because we believed God shortchanged us, or we believed the answer to our prayer didn't fit our expectations?

God used my lovable Brandi and her reaction to her treats as a way to convey this simple yet profound message: We must be grateful for every moment and every gift that God gives to us. For it isn’t the size of the gift, rather, it is our attitude and the depth of our gratitude that makes all the difference.  
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
(I Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV)

The Water Bottle

Among Brandi's trove of treasures, her favorite “toy" is an empty water bottle. You could say that the desire of her heart would be to play in a room full of new, empty water bottles. 

I had given her a small, water bottle that she chewed until its crunch and pop fizzled. She watched me, with total dismay, as I threw it in the trash. Unbeknownst to her, I had already set aside a new bottle, which was twice the size of the old one. When I revealed the new, larger bottle, she twirled on her hind legs with delight. 

I was struck with the reality that God has wonderful gifts that He is ready and willing to give to us, but because we fear losing what we do have, we tenaciously cling to what is familiar and comfortable. This lack of trust causes us to miss out on God's abundant blessings.

Jesus said, "If you hard-hearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask Him for them? (Matthew 7:11 LB) We can trust God and know that He desires to give us even better gifts then what we might ask of Him. We cannot settle for what has been confortable, and still believe God for His very best. Believe and trust Him for His abundance.


Obedience Leads To Reward

The success of Brandi's training depends on her ability to focus on me. Consequently, she follows both voice and hand commands. Her eyes never leave me, and if I tell her to "stay," she doesn't move a muscle until she either hears or sees a command. Her obedience is then rewarded, which reinforces her trust and that bond of love between us.

Great joy and pleasure can only come to those who trust the Lord and not in their own understanding, perceptions, or strength.  When Peter was in the boat and saw Jesus walking on the water, he said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So [Jesus] said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was [turbulent] he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:28-30 NKJV)
When I give the command to "Come," Brandi, comes. And like Peter, she doesn't hesitate. But unlike Peter, she doesn't allow surrounding distractions to divert her eyes away from her "master." Her eyes are locked onto mine, awaiting my next command. In the same way, the world offers many distractions that can take our focus away from the Lord. Those who keep their eyes, hearts and minds focused on Jesus, their Master and Savior, and obey His voice, will receive the desires of their heart (Proverbs 3:5; Psalm 37:4).