Monday, July 27, 2015

Unmasking The "What If's?"

We turn the news on and see turmoil, wars, and unprecedented evil abounding both at home and abroad. Even nature is turning on us as we experience unusual weather patterns, killer tornadoes and deadly flooding. In the midst of this, God is challenging us to believe and declare His Word, that we may unmask the "What ifs?" and proclaim victory.

"What if" was my mantra. What if I had done things differently? What if I had made a different decision?  What if I hadn't made that mistake? What if I don't get healed? What if my husband doesn't receive his healing? Those "what if's" were stealing my peace and joy. However, during the last 5 1/2 years of watching my husband battle Stage 4 Thyroid Cancer, I have marveled at his determination not to consider the "what ifs." Instead, each day, he declares the Word over his life. Yes, he had medical intervention, but what is important to know is that they had given him only a couple of months to live. In fact, three years following his surgery, his surgeon said, " I did not expect you to make it off the operating table, especially after a 14-hour surgery." This past April, his surgeon told us that Michael is a walking miracle and we do not need to return to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.  

During the first part of those years, there were times that we struggled, questioned, believed, wavered, rallied, cried in despair and cried with great joy as we grew exponentially in our faith. We continue to grow in faith, as new challenges arise, but we know to fight the "what ifs," which can never be a part of our inner dialogue.

The greatest faith killer is that tiny word, "if," because it creates doubt and sets up a statement of condition. "If it be your will, heal me." No, Matthew 12:15 tells us, "He healed them all," therefore, we declare, "Jesus was wounded for my transgressions; He was bruised for my iniquities; the chastisement for my peace was upon Him, and by His stripes I am healed (Isaiah 53:5). Lord I further declare that "My light shall break forth like the morning and my healing shall spring forth speedily. My righteousness shall go before me and the glory of the Lord shall be my rear guard" (Isaiah 58:8).

Maybe at one time or another, you have prayed, "Please provide for our finances, if it be your will."  Instead, pray something like this, " I will not be anxious for what I eat, drink, or wear, for You are my Father who knows that I need them all (Matthew 6:31-32). For You tell us to consider the ravens that don't sow or reap, yet You feed them. How much more valuable am I than the birds! (Luke 12:24) Lord, You know my needs, and You have said that I am more valuable then the birds, so where there is lack, I thank you that You will provide. 

Maybe you have prayed for a family member's salvation for years with no tangible results, so doubt prompts the thought, "What if I never see them come to Christ?" The Word asks, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? (Luke 24:38)"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31). 

"If it be your will..." initially came from misunderstanding Jesus' prayer to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will ” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus, knowing what He was about to do, was experiencing every human emotion as He sweat great drops of blood. Yet he knew that He would have to commit His will, along with all of his Divine privileges into His Father's hands so that all could be accomplished. He didn't ask His Father if it was His will. He knew the will of His Father.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in           Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (held on to), but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8). 

The Apostle Paul was saying that Jesus laid aside his Divine privileges, not his Divine attributes so that He could accomplish God's purposes and rescue mankind from eternal death.

We have programmed our hearts not to receive; however, Jesus Christ accomplished it all on Calvary's cross. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). We must reprogram our minds and spirits to receive from God and believe that He wants to bless, heal, and provide for our needs. Though we may at times have our personal crisis of unbelief, He wants us to know that no matter the circumstances or the delays, He is a "miracle working God." His promises are yes and amen.

As a reformed "what-ifer" my thoughts are no longer bombarded with the glaring "WHAT IF'S." I remind myself of the truth of God's Word and the importance of boldly declaring His Word in my life and the lives of others.

Why do some get healed and others don’t? Why do answers to some prayers seem so long in coming?  Those are questions that can only be answered by God. Our job is to erase the "what ifs" that create doubt, and believe as we declare God's Word. We then leave the results in His hands.


"I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 
‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ 
and does not doubt in his heart
but believes that those things he says will be done, 
he will have whatever he says. 
(Mark 11:23)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

THE STORAGE ROOM

As most of you know, we moved to East Tennessee. It took us four weeks to unpack the towering labyrinths of boxes in every room of the house. Unfortunately, the boxes and items that couldn't fit in the house, the movers had loaded into the basement's storage room, which is a little larger then a single-car garage. It's amazing that after selling, donating and tossing so much "stuff" (before we moved), that we still have too much. 

Last Thursday, I went into the storage room to look for paintbrushes (the picture shows only 1/4 of the poorly lit room). As I was exiting, I said to my husband, "The rest of the house looks so nice that I'm glad we can close the door to this storage room and not see the mess." Just then, the Lord spoke to my spirit, "That's what many of my children do. From outward appearances all seems orderly, but inside their hearts, they hide their messy secrets. Those secrets weigh them down, not realizing that nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light" (Luke 8:17).

In the past, I hid my secrets and insecurities by wearing different masks for different people in order to gain approval and affirmation. As a child, I had suffered so much rejection and criticism, that as an adult, I believed that if people really knew me, they would not accept me. So I hid behind a smiling facade, hoping that I wouldn't be judged and criticized. The truth is...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Not one of us is perfect, because we carry that old Adamic nature, which without the mercy of God, we would be powerless to change. Any strength that we have or things that we accomplish, we achieve because of God's redemptive mercy, grace, and love.

If we are human, then we have made mistakes and said and done regrettable things. I had a list of regrets, tucked within my heart, that constantly tormented me, but God's compassionate love took those mistakes and failures and created something positive, beautiful and life changing. Every day, I embrace the truth in His Word that assures me that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are  called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Each person is extraordinary in God's eyes and has been called to a special purpose. The question is...do we answer His call? The world is looking for authentic Christians, those who have made mistakes, but because of Christ's redemptive love, have answered His call and experienced a transformation within their hearts that is significant, life changing, and palpable.

Our lives and all of its chaos can be transformed into something beautiful by the power of God. We know from reading Genesis 1:1 that the earth was chaotic, without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep. But then God spoke the Word and said, "Let there be light!"  God wants to transform our lives by shinning His light into those dark areas that have been strongholds. That transformation of heart, mind, and soul is the greatest testimony to others who are looking for redemption in their own lives.

What does redemption mean? Redemption means to be free from sin, to experience recovery through an exchange of one thing for another, and to have a debt paid. The good news is that through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we have been freed from sin. That day, on Calvary's cross, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, exchanged His life for ours and paid our debt of sin that we could never pay.

There is a story in the Bible about a woman who was caught in adultery and was about to be stoned. When Jesus was asked what He thought, He answered, "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, until only Jesus was left alone with the woman. Then Jesus said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more" (John 8:1-11).

We all sin with our thoughts, words and actions. Just driving a car will test us in those areas!  Thankfully, no sin is too great for God to forgive. It is we who cannot forgive ourselves, so out of shame, fear, embarrassment, and even pride, we hide our sin and mistakes. If we live an authentic Christian life and have accepted God's love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, then we must also come to terms with those hidden secrets. Then we will be able to extend that unconditional love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness to others, for the Word tells us that above all things, we are to have fervent (heartfelt) love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).

If our heart stores past mistakes, hurts, resentments, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred, regrets and every other negative emotion, then how can we make room for Christ's healing, redemptive love and forgiveness? Let us daily strive to keep our hearts open to the infilling of God's Spirit that He may fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Just as we purge our hearts of those things that take up space and prevent us from enjoying life to the fullest, beginning tomorrow, we will start purging the storage area, as well as adding a brighter light, so that we can use it for Michael's workshop and my art work. 

May the light of Christ shine brightly in each of our hearts.

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of he knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6)




Monday, July 6, 2015

FORGIVENESS THROUGH PRAYER

But if you do not forgive others their sins, 
Your Father will not forgive your sins. 
(Matthew 6:15 NIV)

Several years ago, I was married to an abusive husband. The bitterness, anger, and deep sadness that I felt ate at my soul. Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), before it was called PTSD, those memories and images of what I had endured, would replay like a movie on a big screen.

One day, as I was praying and asking God to take away the fear, trauma, and painful memories, His voice resonated within my spirit, "Pray for him every day, for if you refuse to forgive, I cannot forgive you." Those words stunned me. How could I pray for a man who had inflicted so much pain? Suddenly, I was reminded of Jesus’ words to Peter, when Peter asked Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). That represents 490 times, which if we were to forgive each day, would take approximately 16 months.

Peter’s question, “Will it suffice to forgive seven times?” is very much a human response. Surely there must be a cutoff point for a repeat offender? How often has someone committed the same offense without any sign of remorse? We see their unrepentant behavior and actions as unforgivable. Peter had been taught to forgive, but he believed that he was being more than generous in forgiving seven times, which would represent one week. Forgiveness cannot be accomplished in a week.

We are very much like Peter in that our human thinking relates to what is fair and just. Is it fair for someone to hurt us and we, the injured party, must forgive them? Are they getting a free pass? Shouldn’t they be held accountable? Where is the justice? 

Forgiveness is not an option; it is a command. Only God is allowed to keep records. When we keep mental records of injustices and hurts committed by others towards us, those tallies only serve to feed a destructive root of bitterness. Only through forgiveness can we be set free and find healing in our soul.

In the beginning, my daily prayers for my ex-husband were not heart-felt. In fact, I felt like a hypocrite. However, I was determined to obey God and pray for him every day, despite what I felt. To my surprise, as weeks turned into months, the painful memories slowly began to diminish. Eventually as the months neared a year, the anger, pain, and bitterness were replaced with compassion.  I found myself tearfully praying that he would discover the joy of having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a choice. Regardless of my feelings, I chose to pray for my ex-husband every day for almost 365 days. I now realize why Jesus had said to forgive seventy times seven (490 times). Healing doesn't happen overnight or in a week. He knows that forgiveness takes a conscientious effort by the injured party to pray for the offender each day until healing comes and bitterness and resentment are but a blurred memory.

It has been 44 years since I became free of an abusive husband, the debilitating memories and eventually healed of PTSD. More importantly, my soul was healed, because I chose to forgive through prayer. That forgiveness allowed me to move forward and receive the gift that God had for me…a godly husband, with whom I have currently shared 36 wonderful years.