Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sowing and Reaping

My Aunt and Uncle are hard-working Iowa farmers. Not long ago, they sent an email stating they had prayed that their planting would yield a bountiful harvest. They had made all of the necessary preparations to insure the best yield possible, and now they were trusting God to bring forth the fruits of their labor. 

We've heard it said many times, "You reap what you sow." Hosea 8:7 tells us that those who are not worried about what they sow and reap have in essence, sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. Their cornstalks stand barren, withered, sickly, with no grain. If there is any grain at all, foreigners will consume it. 

Sowing and reaping principles are the same in the natural world and the spiritual world. God's Word tells us to plant the good seeds of righteousness, and we will reap a crop of His love. We are to plow the hard ground of our hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and shower salvation upon us (Hosea 10:12). However, as with a coin, there is always a reverse side. If we don't plant good seed, we cultivate wickedness and raise a crop of sins. We then cling to a false trust and belief, rooted in a lie, that says, "With enough effort and ingenuity, we have power to make ourselves and a nation safe from evil" (Hosea 10:12-14).

 Jesus gave this parable to show the truths about sowing and reaping:
  • “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
  •  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow, but when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.    
  • Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 
  • Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear."
Puzzled, the disciples asked Jesus what this parable meant. He answered:
  • "When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart.
  • The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the Word and at once receives it with joy, but when trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away.
  • The seed falling among the thorns refers to the deceitfulness of wealth that chokes the Word, making it unfruitful in that person's life.
  • The seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the Word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a  hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (Matthew 13).

We live in very dangerous and perilous times, where evil abounds, war and deadly diseases threaten our safety, and right is wrong and wrong is right. As never before, Christians must seek God, His will and His direction, that they may sow good seed, for the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in each step we take (Psalm 37:23). Are we sowing good seed? What we sow today, we will reap, either in this life or the next.

Our prayer should be: Lord, order my steps in Your word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me (Psalm 119:33), for a man's heart devises his way: but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9). Teach me to be diligent in sowing good seed in my life, so that a bountiful harvest may come forth for Your kingdom. 


Sunday, October 19, 2014

THE WIDOW

I awoke that sunny morning to a thought of eating breakfast at a buffet restaurant that we had not yet visited. The restaurant was busy and crowded, so while my husband stood in line to pre-pay, I scanned the room for a table and sat down.

I noticed her immediately. She looked older then what her actual age might have been. Her thin frame, the stoop of her shoulders, her drawn face and un-kept, graying hair, wrote a story of pain and overwhelming sadness. I watched her move from table to table, tending to the needs of her dining guests. A lone man, seated at the table adjacent to ours, wore an unfriendly scowl on his face. She approached him and politely asked if there was something else she could get him. He dismissed her with a curt, "No," stood up, and with a flick of his wrist, threw a single dollar on the table and left.

I watched her as she just stood there, with eyes transfixed on the "tip."  With a sadness that was palatable, her shoulders bent a little more as she gingerly placed the dollar into her apron. I was suddenly overwhelmed with an unexpected cascade of tears and emotion that I couldn't process or contain.

"Why am I feeling such deep sadness for this woman?" I asked the Lord. Just then, His gentle voice spoke into my spirit and said, "This woman just lost her husband, and she believes that I have abandoned her. Tell her that I love her and have not forgotten her."

I quickly wiped the tears from my eyes and face, as my husband approached the table. Just then the Lord told me to place a specific amount of money in her hand and to give her His message. I told my husband what had just happened and asked him to pray about how much to give her. He bowed his head, and then lifting his eyes to meet mine, said the exact amount that God had spoken to me.

As we finished our breakfast, she approached our table and asked if there was anything else she could do for us. I motioned her closer to me, took her hand and pressed the money into her palm. As I gently closed her fingers over the gift, I said, "God wants you to know that He loves you and has not forgotten you." Tears began to stream down her face as she said, "My husband just died, and I thought God had forgotten me." I assured her of God's great love for her and that He had not forgotten her, nor would He ever forget her.

God's love for us is without boundaries. He wants us to know that what is important to us, what pains us, what disappoints us, what challenges us, and what brings us joy, are all important to Him. He wanted this woman to experience His love and to know that her life was of such great value to Him, that He sent a willing servant to convey His message.

God places opportunities before us to minister to others in ways that we would never expect. Often, when we hear that still small voice in our spirit, we discount it. Some of us know that it's God, but our response is, "I can't say that! They'll think I'm crazy." However, I would rather be His crazy messenger, then to never experience the joy that I felt that morning. I truly believe that I received the greater blessing, that remains with me each and every day.

We are God's messengers on earth. He has placed within us the ability to change lives, if we will only step out in faith, believe, and trust Him. I have found that God's instructions have often made no sense to my human thinking, but when I obeyed, I  witnessed the unfolding of the miraculous and His intervening love and blessings.

Throughout scripture, God instructed people to do things that made no sense by human reasoning. God told Noah to build an ark, despite the fact that there was no water in sight. People laughed and scoffed, as he labored for 120 years. Then the floods came and only Noah, his family and the animals that Noah had gathered, survived.

God spoke to Abraham and told him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Through Abraham's obedience, God supplied a sacrifice and spared Isaac, thus fulfilling His promise to Abraham to build a great nation through His seed.

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, had leprosy. Elisha, the man of God, told Naaman to go and dip in the river seven times and his flesh would be restored. At first, Naaman refused, because he thought it was ridiculous. However, his servants convinced him to listen to the words of the prophet, so he went down to the river, dipped seven times, and "his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" (II Kings 5 NKJV).

The Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat." Joshua obeyed the voice of the Lord, and the walls fell, and victory was achieved (Joshua 6 NKJV).

A certain man was at the Pool of Bethesda, who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years. Jesus said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The man didn't answer yes or no; rather, he gave an excuse as to why he couldn't be made well. Isn't that what we often do. We hear the nudging of the Holy Sprit, giving us instruction, but we make excuses as to why we can't do what He is asking of us. Jesus said, “Rise, take up your bed and walk." The spirit man within the crippled man responded to the Word of the Lord, and his body obeyed; he got up, took his bed, and walked (John 5).

The Word tells us that we are spirit encased in a temporary earth suit. When God speaks to us, it is His Holy Spirit communicating with our spirit. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27). Our spirit must be trained to hear and obey the voice of the Lord; otherwise, we will give into fleshly fears, doubts, skepticism, and unbelief.

This grieving widow was in deep pain and needed to know that God had not forgotten her. I am humbled and honored that He used me to convey His message of hope and love. 

The next time you hear that still small voice in your spirit, giving you instruction or leading you to give a message of love and hope, don't ignore it, and don't be afraid of it. If you do ignore it, you will miss the greatest opportunity and joy that comes in walking in obedience, and blessing others.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:11

But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things, which I say.
Luke 6:46

Note: One plant commonly called "Rose of Sharon" in the US is Hibiscus syriacus. Jesus, the greatest expression of love to mankind, is also referred to as the Rose of Sharon. 






Sunday, October 12, 2014

SPEAKING IN FAITH

Barbara Wentroble, who is a gifted speaker and motivator, coaches leaders in ministry, media, business, etc. She posted a simple and powerful prayer on the Identity Network, which is the Christian Resource website. For that reason, I have quoted the prayer, followed by my perspective on speaking in faith.

Barbara was at a ministry conference, when a woman approached her and asked for prayer for her prodigal daughter who had not contacted her in months and was living with her boyfriend. This is the prayer that Barbara prayed for this woman's daughter, Jane:

"Heavenly Father, You are a father and understand the agony of this mother's heart. I ask You, in the Name of Jesus, to bring healing and restoration to this family. Remind this daughter of Your Word. Help her remember Your goodness." Immediately, Barbara sensed the Holy Spirit nudging her to speak as if Jane were in front of her, "Jane, open your eyes and look. You are in a pigpen. Get up and get out of the pigpen. Come back to your Father's House. Come home in Jesus' Name!"

A month later, Barbara was speaking at a Bible school conference, when Jane's mother ran to her and said, "Barbara, you prayed for my daughter, and I have to tell you what happened. When I came home from the conference last month, I found I had received a phone call from her. The time of the call was exactly when you and I were praying. Jane left a message that she was coming home. She said, 'I don't know what happened to me! It was as if my eyes were opened, and I could see. And I thought, This is a pigpen. I'm going home.'"

Later that night, Barbara met Jane, who thanked her for her prayer. She was not only home again, but she was joyfully serving the Lord.

The centurion understood the power and authority of God's Word, when he said to Jesus,"…only speak a Word, and my servant will be healed" (Matthew 8:8). He knew that it wasn't necessary for Jesus to physically be there for His power to work. "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). Our words go forth like heat-seeking missiles that find their targets. That is why it is so important to speak the truth of God's Word in our prayers.

Jesus, who is the Word incarnate, the resurrection, and the life, came to the tomb of Lazarus and commanded that the stone, covering the entrance, be removed. Martha protested and said, "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days" (John 11:39). Jesus replied, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God?" (Vs. 40). 
First, Jesus prayed, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me…" (Vs. 41). Then, with power and authority, He spoke a commanded," Lazarus, come forth!" (Vs. 42) Lazarus' life was restored.
Barbara's initial prayer was directed to God, but then God led her to speak a command to Jane, even though Jane was not in her presence. Through Barbara's obedience to God, the young prodigal was restored.
As believing Christ followers, we have been given all authority. Jesus said, "I have given you authority to trample on snakes (our sin nature, lust, temptation, deception) and scorpions (curses, demons, threats, and dangers) and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you" (Luke 10:19 NIV). Jesus also said, "…if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain (any obstacle or problem), 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). Interestingly, "move from here to there," is a direct command. Repeatedly, the scriptures tell us to speak things in faith, because faith activates and releases the power of God.
Jesus said, "The words I say to you I do not speak on My own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work" (John 14:10). That living Word lives within each person who has surrendered to Christ. We do not speak on our own authority, but by The Authority given to us through the blood of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the devil has convinced too many Christians that they are weak, impotent, powerless, and without authority. However, Jesus said, "…he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father" (John 14:12).

Greater works then these? That is mind boggling, considering that Jesus not only healed and delivered those who were bound by demons, sin and illness, but He also raised the spiritually and physically dead. Unfortunately, many of us don't believe that we carry within us, the miracle working power of the Holy Spirit; therefore, we don't do the greater works.

There are two key elements required for God to move through us and bring about the miraculous. First, we must believe God's Word is true and that He is faithful to perform it. Secondly, to see the miraculous happen, we must be His conduit by speaking His Word. 

The dead are being raised back to life around the world; the sick are being healed; people are being delivered from witchcraft. Why?  Because Christians who have taken God at His Word and believe His Word, are speaking His word in obedience and faith.

Jesus left His Holy Spirit on this earth to empower us to be His voice. When Jesus called the Twelve together, He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. Most importantly, He sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick (Luke 9:1-6) telling them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that He commanded them (Matthew 28:10-20).

Christians are called to speak truth and life into the lives of others through encouragement, prayer, and proclamation. If we don't, who will? We are disciples (followers of Jesus Christ); therefore, we have been given all authority to speak life, to speak truth, to speak God's Word, and to speak those things that are not as though they are. If what we speak is in agreement with God's Word, then God will create the fruit of our lips (Isaiah 57:19).

The Lord appointed seventy more to do what the disciples had been doing and sent them out two by two into every city and place. Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Luke 10:1-3). I don't believe that the Lord meant, "If you don't want to go, send someone else." No, He was saying that they were to go; pray for others; and share the gospel, so that even more laborers would be raised up to join in the harvest of souls.

Each Christian has been appointed to be a "laborer" that sows seed for the harvest. What are we praying, and what are we speaking into the lives of others? What words of encouragement, hope, love, and truth are we speaking to those who are hurting, confused, angry, and even lost? There is a potential harvest with our immediate family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. May we each become his faithful laborers for His kingdom, praying without ceasing and speaking His Word in faith (I Thessalonians 5:17).

Hear; for I will speak of excellent things (Proverbs 8:6). 


Note: The crepe myrtle is Christian symbolism, representing the Gentiles conversion to Christ.



Monday, October 6, 2014

HIDDEN IDOLS

Not too long ago, the Lord led me on an eye-opening journey of self-discovery - one that revealed some startling truth about myself, and idol worship.

The book of I Kings records the downfall and demise of Israel's kings because of their worship of idols, their refusal to worship the one true God, and their seeking of godless council. Some worshipped God along with their idols. They were unrepentant, covetous, disobedient, rebellious, and lusted after power. Sadly, America has taken on this description of ancient kings and has become a Mecca for idol worship, while incorporating pseudo Christianity.

Idols are not limited to Ashtoreth poles, shrines, totems, or other manmade deities. Idols can be objects, beliefs, desires, habits, activities, persons, or anything that captures our heart and draws our attention and focus away from God.

When we invited Christ into our heart, we were delivered from bondage of sin and death. However, that spiritual transformation did not remove us from a pagan world, where Christian values are scorned, mocked and debased, and where tolerance, compromise, self-worship, materialism, and secularism are embraced.

All forms of media and advertising promote crass materialism, self-improvement, and self-indulgence. Their ungodly counsel promises that if we buy into their propaganda, we will look better, feel better, become better, live healthier, longer, and have better lives. This daily, minute-by-minute infusion of a worldview has created a culture that seeks things that promote and satisfy self.

America’s motto is “In God We Trust.” God asks, “In whom do you really trust? Who or what do you first turn to for help and answers? In whom or what do you find complete rest and joy? Is it in your intellect, education, talents, your spouse, family, friends, government, bank account, doctor, or maybe yourself and your accomplishments?”

Years of struggling with major illnesses and surgeries drained me physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. When another medical problem arose, I said to God: “Lord, I am so tired of these medical issues. I know you love me with a perfect love, because every good and perfect gift comes from You. You and Your Word are perfect and unchanging, therefore, the error must rest with me. Is there anything in my life that displeases You and keeps me from receiving all that You have for me?”
God’s gentle voice embraced my spirit as I heard, “You worship an idol.”  I was stunned. I said, “Lord, I love You and You alone. What idol could I be worshipping? There is no thing or person that I have put above You.” But in my spirit, I heard, “What you have given the most thought and attention to has become your idol.”
The startling realization hit me: I was the idol. For the first time, I really understood John 12:25 - “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” I had been focusing on me every day. My thoughts were consumed with my health. Even my dreams were invaded by worries over health issues. Repentance filled my heart as I sobbed with the realization that I had wasted so much precious time pursuing the healing and not the Healer.
Scriptures tell us of a woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years. She had spent all of her money on physicians, but they could not heal her. When she pursued Jesus, when she kept her eyes on Him while pushing through the crowd, she was able to touch the hem of His garment, and was immediately healed (Luke 8:43). Was I pushing through the circumstances with my eyes fastened on Jesus? No.

I believe that God wants us healed and that we should pray for healing for ourselves and for others. I also believe that God uses doctors to help us. But who are we pursuing first -
man, or Jehovah Rapha our Healer? Our eyes are on what we pursue. Jesus said to seek Him first, (pursue Him) and all things shall be added unto us (Matthew 6:33).

We are to run after and seek to know Christ and His love, which surpasses human knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the Holy Sprit that works in us (Ephesians 3:19-21).

Proverbs 3:5-8 gives us four valuable instructions to live by:
1. We must trust in the Lord with all of our heart.
2. We are not to trust in our own intellect; it will always fail and deceive us. "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways" (Isaiah 55:8). By trusting in my own understanding and limited abilities, I became an idol, and that is sin.
3. We are to acknowledge Him in everything we do, every success, and every blessing.
4. We must honor God and turn from evil. The result will be health to our bodies and nourishment to our bones (Proverbs 3:7-9).

God asks us: "Who do you love? Would I be enough if your dreams were unfulfilled? Are you willing to surrender all to Me and offer your life as a living sacrifice, denying self and what it wants and demands? If everything you valued in life were lost, would you still love Me?"

God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, who was to be the fulfillment of God's promise of an heir and an eternal covenant. Abraham showed his unwavering trust and obedience to God when he laid his only son upon the altar. God's response was to provide another sacrifice, thus sparing Isaac and fulfilling His promise to Abraham.

Job, who was a righteous man and followed after God, lost everything, yet he continued to praise God. God rewarded Job's faithfulness and returned to him, seven times more then what was lost.

God is most concerned with the attitude of our heart, who and what we serve, and what we value the most. God showed me that my joy and happiness were predicated on my health. He challenged me to lay it all upon the altar. Yes, I still have health issues that can be frustrating, but they no longer control me. Instead of waking in the morning, bemoaning how I feel, I awake, worshipping God and thanking Him for His faithfulness and giving me the strength to do what He calls me to do that day. My thoughts are no longer consumed by symptoms. When God directs me to see a physician, I go. However, I steadfastly approach His throne of grace, trusting and believing that He has a greater plan for me.

The Lord said to trust in Him with all of our heart and don't depend on our own understanding but in everything we do, acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Each day, my prayer is: "Show me your ways, O 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).