Sunday, September 28, 2014

DO IT ANYWAY


I was sitting in the living room, mindlessly gazing into the kitchen, when my eyes caught the morning sun illuminating strands of a spider web. My first thought was, "How did I miss that, when I just cleaned?" Suddenly, I was captivated by the light as it danced and played along the strands like a skater on ice or rhythmic fingers that quickly move across piano keys. When the sun receded, the web became completely invisible, but when the sun reappeared, the web was exposed.

We carry the light, which is truth that exposes the darkness. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV).

The world, shrouded in darkness and chaos, rejects the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE, but why should we be surprised? Jesus forewarned us:

"Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:3-14 NIV).

- Famine and hunger are world issues.  When South Sudan's leadership fractured over a possible coup, violence spread across the country, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee, leaving more than 10,000 people dead. Now, over a million people have been displaced due to extreme famine in South Sudan.
According to World Hunger Statistics, 1.5 million of the world's children are dying each year from hunger. 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Hunger is high in the United States with one in seven families having a shortage of food.  Many U.S.  children go to bed hungry and awake in the morning with empty bellies and no breakfast to ease their pain and nourish their bodies.

- Unemployment is high. American soldiers, who fought for this country, either can't find work or are homeless, or both. Many can't get their V.A. benefits. According to the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform, the mounting national debt is worse than it has ever been with potentially dire consequences for taxpayers and future generations.

- Nations are rising up against nations. The Middle East is a hotbed of tension, war, mass murder, beheadings, brutality, and destruction. An international crisis is waging over Russia and Ukraine's control of the Crimean Peninsula. According to the Russian Daily Kommersant newspaper, Russia plans to supply Iran (a threat to the U.S. and Israel) a modified version of the S-300 anti-aircraft system and build a new nuclear reactor for the Iranian regime.

Christians are being martyred around the world in unprecedented numbers.

- False prophets are seducing Christians with an apostate, "feel good," prosperity gospel, while encouraging ungodly and unscriptural manifestations to occur in many churches.

- The world has already experienced 76 earthquakes in 2014, with the majority of them being 6.2 or greater. The most recent 6.2 occurred in Willow, Alaska, on September 25, 2014, and the year has not ended.

- September 26, 2014, a woman, working in a food plant, was beheaded and another woman stabbed by a disgruntled employee, who had been trying to convert fellow employees to Islam. ISIS, the Islamist terror group that controls much of Syria and Iraq, has been called by the U.S. intelligence officials, an "extremely high" threat to the U.S.

- Deadly plagues and diseases challenge the best medical minds of the world and yet no cures can be found. The CDC has issued alarming new Ebola warnings to U.S. flight crews.

- The moral ground on which America once placed her flag has become a quagmire of debauchery, perversion of every kind, blasphemy, adultery, violence, and lawlessness, as she descends into spiritual apostasy.

- The gospel is being preached throughout the world.

Yes, we are witnessing the scriptures come alive before our eyes, "but when these things take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28). God will soon bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts (I Corinthians 4:5).

We don't know the "day or the hour" the Lord will return, but He did say to watch for the signs and be ready for His return. In  preparation, we must ask ourselves if we are reflecting the light of Christ, or are we hiding the light within.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that He had commanded the disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). That means that Jesus' intent was for the disciples to make more disciples, so that the Word could be carried around the world. Are we, or are we not, disciples of Jesus Christ?

There are hurting, seeking, spiritually hungry, lonely people, who feel abandoned by God and desperately want to know if God really cares about them. We each have a testimony to share with family, friends, and strangers, but many don't share for fear of being rejected or offending that person. Do it anyway. The Lord may speak to our hearts to give a stranger a word of encouragement, or to pray for them, but we hold back. Do it anyway. Maybe the Lord has told us to pay a person's bill, and then tell them, "The Lord wants to bless you," but we ignore that nudging in our spirit. Do it anyway!

We have so many excuses as to why we shouldn't or can't share God's love with others. However, our refusal to share is our denial of Christ. "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33).

We may think that we could never deny Jesus Christ, but the Lord told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed. Peter was so certain of his faith that he protested, "Even if all fall away on account of You, I never will" (Matthew 26:33). He did not realize that without constant vigilance, the flesh will temp, deceive and reject the Spirit within.

We deny Christ, when we fail to deny our flesh what it wants. We deny Christ when we give into our fears. We deny Christ, when we refuse to obey Him, or when we ignore the Holy Spirit's nudging to share God's Word, a kindness, a prayer, an encouraging word, a financial gift, or the greatest gift of all - the gift of eternal life. To disobey Him is to deny Christ who lives within us. Not only do we miss opportunities to bless others, we miss blessings that come to us when we show God's love in a real and tangible way.

We must deny our flesh and step out of our comfort zone for our Lord. Peter's fear of what would happen to him, if he acknowledged his friendship with Jesus, caused him to say, "I do not know the man." Does our life reflect knowing the incarnate "Man" - Jesus Christ? That does not mean that we stand on street corners, proclaiming the Good News. It means that we obey the Holy Spirit who directs and guides us. That is why God said that obedience is better than sacrifice. Without our obedience, God's work on earth cannot be accomplished.

Ministering to others is not just for pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. All Christ followers have been commissioned by Christ to step up and bring the truth to those who are stumbling in darkness. If not, those whom God is trying to reach will never experience the truth and the love of God. I would be lost for all eternity had it not been for a sister-in-law who was bold enough to share the gospel with me.

The next time God gives you the opportunity to be His shining light, obey Him. If that voice of "reason" tries to talk you out of it, do it anyway. You will reap unparalleled joy and satisfaction to know that you were a light that uncovered the darkness and brought God's love to another.

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Mark 16:15-16

Sunday, September 21, 2014

ANOTHER LESSON - BY A FLY?



It's amazing how the natural world reflects spiritual truths.  Remember the fate of the fly in my blog, "The Fly Swatter?" This morning, I believe one of his family members made an appearance. Unlike his pesky relative, who avoided the light, relentlessly attacked me, and met his demise, this little guy was doing everything he could to get to the light that was peaking through the window blinds.

We have all seen this phenomenon happen with moths and other insects, so my curiosity sent me searching for an answer as to why they are drawn to the light. The simple answer reflects God's intention for all creation: Insects seek out light as a navigational tool to stay on a direct course, instead of aimlessly flying in the dark.

From the beginning, God made a distinction between light and darkness and day and night when He separated the light from the darkness:

      Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:2-3).
There is a deeper, spiritual reason for separating darkness from light. We know that "light" and "darkness" are metaphors for "good and evil" and for "truth and deception." Jesus said, "I am the truth, the way and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). "For [we] were once darkness, but now [we] are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). "For what fellowship has light with darkness" (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Insects instinctually see the futility of flying around in the dark. They seek out the light. So if an insect relentlessly pursues the light, then why do humans resist The Light and embrace a world saturated with spiritual darkness?

Jesus called Himself the "light of the world" (John 9:5). The definition of "light" clearly describes all the biblical attributes of Christ: understanding, wisdom, comprehension, insight, awareness, knowledge, brightness, luminescence, shining, gleaming, brilliance, and radiance. 

Lighthouses were used as navigational tools, through storms and the darkness of night, to guide ships on a steady and direct course home. Jesus, if we allow Him, will guide us safely through the seas of life, so that we can reach our ultimate, desired destination - heaven (which has no darkness).

Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Unfortunately, like the prodigal, humans are drawn away from the safety of the Father's love, and into a dark world that holds empty promises.

The prodigal is a story of redemption. Here was a young man who had everything with his father, but was lured by world's offerings. Instead, he found the world to be a dark, formable, and unfriendly place. He lost everything he had and returned to his father, hoping to become just a servant. However, his father had been watching every day for his son's return, so when he saw him in the distance, he quickly alerted his servants to prepare a great feast. The prodigal's brother bitterly complained about the royal welcome, but his father responded, "...your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found."

We cannot navigate this life unless we follow the light of Christ.  If we try to ignore Jesus, we will be like insects, that without light to guide them, wander aimlessly in the dark.

The best way to "stay on a direct course" is to embrace God's Word, which is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). His Word will always keep us on a sure path that focuses on Jesus, who said, "I Am the light of the world.
He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

We don't have to wander aimlessly through this life. We have access to The Light who orders and directs our steps and guides us on a "direct course," safely home to the Father's arms.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Oops, I Did It Again"


You've told yourself over and over again: "I'm not going to do this again," and then life steps in, and you find yourself saying, "Oops, I did it again." It might be a habit you are trying to break, a thought you promised you would not dwell on; a rectified unforgiveness that has resurfaced to niggle you back to bitterness; or anything else that consumes your daily thinking.

We've all promised ourselves that we wouldn't do "that" again, but then, we break our own promise. We become discouraged and think, "Lord, am I ever going to get this right? Why do I keep doing the very thing I KNOW I shouldn't do?

Guess what? You're in good company. The Apostle Paul struggled with the same dilemma: "It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; 23-25 but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin. So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free" (Romans 7:21-25).

Paul recognized that every day, we struggle with our old Adamic nature. Even if we have been born again into God's kingdom, the flesh is always there to draw us away from the things of God. Without Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are unable to resist the flesh, but with Christ, we can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13). Remember, Paul said, we do not need to be a slave to our lower nature, for Jesus paid the ultimate price and set us free from sin and death.

You may be thinking at this point, "This is all well and good, but HOW do I stop these daily invaders that tempt and divert my thoughts away from God?" The answer is not simple, for the simple reason that our brains hold a complicated processor that is daily fed information. Just like trojans that find their way into the hard drive of our computers, seeking to destroy, the enemy wants to invade the hard drive of our mind.  His mission is to seek, capture, and destroy. If he can accomplish that, he has won the battle. However, don't despair. There is an answer to "HOW."

Our mind, which is a powerful tool, is also a battlefield. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). For the word of God is living and powerful, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we were provided all power and authority. However, we must use that authority. Our virus protector is the Word of God. When we speak the Word, it overrides wrong thoughts. Those invaders are then brought under submission by the power of the Holy Spirit.  For the Word tells us that when we submit to God and His Word, and when we resist the devil, he has no choice but to flee (James 4:7).

How do we resist the devil? We meditate (think, ponder, and reflect on) those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). For the heart is intrinsically evil and deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). For that reason, we must be careful to watch, read, speak, and meditate on those things that are pleasing to God.  

Words spoken in the natural realm, have power to destroy or to edify. In the spiritual realm, when wielded by a believing Christian, words become powerful containers of faith that move mountains, change lives, heal, restore, and deliver.

The apostle John said, "The words that I speak to you are Spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63 NIV) God's spoken Word created the world and everything in it. The centurion understood the power of the Word and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a Word, and my servant will be healed (Matthew 8:8).

There is only one way to have victory in this life, and that is by believing, studying, speaking, and living God's Word each day. Yes, we will continue to make mistakes and side steps, but if we pursue God through His Word, we will build spiritual muscles that enable us to override the invading trojans, working to penetrate our "computer." Remember, our virus protector is God's Word, which empowers us to keep our promises to Him and to ourselves. 

My tongue shall speak of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness.
Psalm 119:172




Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Reluctant Prodigal


We were created and designed for a divine purpose, and as followers of Jesus Christ, we have a secure, glorious, and triumphant birthright through His shed blood. However, those truths are filtered through worldly opinions and contradictions that diametrically oppose scripture.

Too many children are challenging their parents’ authority, guidelines, values, and are refusing to follow God. Their resistance and resentment of constraining biblical and parental guidelines are reflected in their unrealistic and misguided ideas, ideals, and expectations. Their goal is to control their own destiny with no thought given to the painful consequences. 

Jesus told a parable about the prodigal son who wanted freedom from the constraints of his father’s authority, so he asked for his inheritance. After his father equally portioned the birthright between the two sons, the young prodigal gathered all he had and set off for a distant country, where he squandered his wealth in unrestrained and reckless living.

There was a severe famine in that country, so he hired himself out to a man who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. His hunger was so great that he longed to eat what the pigs ate, but was given nothing. Finally, he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men."

Isn't that what many do? Mistakes are made and sins are committed. Instead of going to the Father, they run from Him, believing they are undeserving of His forgiveness and blessings. This deception keeps many from God's promises of hope and the expectation of a bright and fulfilling future.

The young man journeyed back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and with compassion, ran and threw his arms around him, and kissed him. The son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father ordered the servants to put the best robe on him and a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. He then ordered the fattened calf killed for a feast to celebrate his son's return. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (Luke 15:11-31 NIV).

The prodigal was dead in his sins, but when he repented, he was restored to his father. We are dead in our sins until we repent, turn away from sin and embrace God who created us.

The older brother complained bitterly, "Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"  The father answered,  “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:11-32 NIV).

We don't know how much time elapsed before the prodigal returned home. We do know that his brother's bitterness and refusal to acknowledge his prodigal brother, was reflected in his comment, "..this son of yours." Not only does he disassociate himself from his brother, He argues the unfairness of his royal welcome.
How often do we judge a person to be undeserving of God's blessings because we view their behavior as ungodly? However, "…the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7 NIV).

The story of the prodigal is an allegory of God’s extreme love and redemption for those who repent and return to the safety of His arms. Initially, the prodigal didn’t think he needed his father. He had money and independence. Unfortunately, he hadn’t anticipated the harsh reality of the world. It would take squandering his inheritance and suffering hunger, loneliness, and despair to fully appreciate what he had with his father.  

Today's prodigal is not any different than the biblical prodigal. Instead of respecting and caring for their inheritance that was given through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and recognizing the greater blessings received in honoring and obeying the Father, they seek after the things of the world. 

God provides safety and security to those who love Him and are completely surrendered to Him. We are His canvas; we are His clay. Does the clay create its own shape? Does the canvas tell the artist what to paint? When surrendered into the Master’s hands, our lives reflect beauty that can only come from His hand. Unfortunately, those who resist God’s will and purposes are like the prodigal who took control of his life and suffered great loss.

Unfortunately, the world’s offerings are always there to entice and draw His children away from their godly inheritance. If those worldly values are embraced, then biblical values are most often left on the wayside. Eventually, that person begins to live a life apart from God's will, authority, and plan. Sadly, if they don’t return to Him, they never reach their greatest potential and purpose in life.

Christ followers, who have been delivered from the powers of sin and death, are entitled to His exceeding great and precious promises: that by these [we] might be partakers of [His] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter: 1-4).  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—does not come from the Father but from the world (John 2:16).

God longs for the return of His wayward children. Just like the father who rejoiced when he saw his son approaching from a far off, our Father God rejoices with all of heaven when one of His children returns.

This father was expectantly looking across the horizon for his son’s return. If you are a prodigal, God is expectantly looking and waiting, with open arms, to receive you back to Him. 


If you are the parent of a prodigal who is away from God, do not grow weary in praying and searching the horizon each day for his or her return. For when that day comes, all heaven will rejoice with you.



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