Sunday, September 27, 2015

DENY MY FAITH?  NEVER!!!


Simon Peter, who was a faithful disciple of Jesus, must have been shocked and caught off-guard when the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Most likely, Peter was shaken by the Lord's comment. He was convinced in his heart, that he would never leave Jesus, so he said, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." Jesus responded, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day before you will deny, three times, that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31-34 NKJV)

That night, while Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin and Peter waited in the courtyard, a servant girl approached him, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” Peter quickly denied knowing Jesus, “I do not know what you are saying.” Then another girl said,  “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.”  Again, Peter denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” A little later those who stood near him said, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” Peter began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed, and Peter wept bitterly, as he remembered the words of Jesus. (Matthew 26:69-74)

The Apostle Paul warned us not to believe that we are incapable of falling (I Corinthians 10:12). Peter believed, as most followers of Christ, that he would NEVER deny Christ...but he did.

Jesus, who is our Intercessor and knows all things, fully expected Peter to repent and return to Him. Peter repented, and after Jesus' resurrection, He recommissioned Peter, who then became a fierce advocate for the Lord. Peter, never again denied Christ and eventually died a martyr.

Jesus said, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33)

What does it mean to "deny?" Deny is defined as "the refusal to admit the truth or existence of."  It means to contradict, oppose, reject, challenge, dismiss, or discard. 

Many people, including Christians, reject, dismiss and discard those things in the Bible that they find difficult to believe or accept. They pick and choose what fits comfortably into their belief system and dismiss and discard the rest. In doing so, they are denying Christ.

We deny Jesus every day in one form or another. Here are just a few other ways in which we deny Christ:

We deny Him when we refuse to share our faith. "But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (I Peter 3:15). "Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord..." (II Timothy 1:8)

We deny Him when we say that there are many "paths" that lead to God. "Jesus said unto him, I Am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by Me." (John 14:6) 


We deny Him when our words don't reflect the character of Jesus. "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)
                                                           
We deny Him when we don't extend love, grace, and mercy to others. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control..." (Galatians 5:22-23)

We deny Him when our lives contradict His Word. We either produce good fruits, which are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, without partiality and hypocrisy (James 3:17),  or our lives can produce bad 
fruits, which are adultery, fornication, impure thoughts and actions, lewdness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, fighting, jealousies, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, discord, fighting, unbelief, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. (Galatians 5:19-23)

We deny Him when we love the world more than Him. "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (I John 2:15)

We deny Him when we are not the image bearers of Christ. "Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children." (Ephesians 5:1)

We deny the Lord when we walk after our own lusts. "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions" (James 4:3). Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and brought grief to themselves. (I Timothy 6:8-10 NIV)

We deny the Lord when we don't pray. "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people" (I Timothy 2:1)"Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

We deny the Lord when we refuse to love others as Christ loves us. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." (John 13:34)

We deny the Lord when we refuse to forgive. "If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:15)

We deny the Lord when we lie. "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight" (Proverbs 12:22).  "...all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

We deny Him when we put "self" first.  Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24)

We deny Him when we deny the existence of hell, for He paid the ultimate price to save us from internal destruction.  "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear [Satan] who can destroy both soul and body in hell."  (Matthew 10:28)

We deny Him when we sin and justify our actions. "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning." (I John 3:8)

We deny Him when we walk in rebellion and disobedience. "For rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry (materialism)." (I Samuel 15:23)

We deny Him when we refuse to read His Word. "I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11). To ignore God’s Word is to ignore the power of His Son and the Source of life.

The Word tells us not to be conformed to this world, but to "be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). The only way to renew our mind is with the truth of God's Word, for "all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness." (II Timothy 3:16)


Jesus said that we are known by our fruit. In other words, how we live and what we believe, think, and speak will determine our destiny and testimony before the world. Those who are unwilling to follow and obey the Word of God must decide whom they will serve. Will it be the gods of materialism, physical comforts, and carnal desires, or will they serve God who is Redeemer, Provider, Healer, Restorer, and Deliverer?

That which is good and perfect comes down to us from our Heavenly Father (James 1:17). Because He loves us, He provides and gives good gifts to those who love and trust Him. As for me, and my family, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

Monday, September 21, 2015


GOD'S INVESTMENT


Apostasy reigns across our nation, and we wonder why violence and riots are surging to a new level. Law enforcement officers are targeted and murdered. Mass killings have occurred in government settings, schools, theaters, and other public places. The Middle East is a powder keg, as the threat of war hangs in the balance. Iran has been given carte blanche to develop nuclear weapons, despite their promise to annihilate Israel and America. ISIS is a looming threat on the horizon. Drug addiction is at a new high with the availability of more than 400 dangerous synthetic drugs. The National Debt is at an all time high and there is fear that the economy will tank. Every night, news affiliates report rapes, robberies, kidnappings, murders, burglaries, home invasions, corruption, and the persecution and killings of Christians around the world.

The Bible forewarns that in the last days, people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, godless, corrupt, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, wicked, merciless, hating what is good, immoral, unfaithful, deceitful, impulsive, conceited, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having the form of godliness but denying its power" (II Timothy 3-5).  Sadly, there are Christians who have a perfunctory faith and view church attendance as obligatory. Although they attend church, they don't believe or practice what they hear.

God is relational. He is not some remote entity, located somewhere in the distant cosmos, who has little interest in what we feel, think, and believe. He hears every prayer that we pray, every word that we speak, knows every thought that we think, and cares about every pain and disappointment that we experience. Yet people ask, "If God is love, then why does He allow so much evil in the world?"

The answer is found in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were given a choice. "The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).       

God knew that once man had knowledge of good and evil that his innocence would be lost and all future generations would have a proclivity to sin, rebellion, and evil. Adam and Eve were given the choice to trust and obey God, thereby receiving all blessings, or they could listen to Satan's lie.  Regrettably, they believed a lie and chose death.

There are those who believe that Adam and Eve are allegorical characters; however, as believers, we accept, by faith, that Adam and Eve were the "first parents" of mankind. "God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female, He created them (Adam and Eve). Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it...'"(Genesis 1:27-28 NKJV)

God loved us before we loved Him (I John 4:19). In fact, He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to re-establish a relationship with mankind, which had been severed by our "first parents" (I John 4:10). He wants us to choose Him, but He won't force His will upon us. He doesn't want marionettes that are manipulated to dance to the will and pleasure of the puppeteer.

Throughout the ages and around the world, there have always been and always will be impassioned men and women who live and die for their faith in Jesus Christ. Many would ask, "Why would they willingly place their lives in harms way for the purpose of sharing the gospel?" Could it be that they have a deep and abiding relationship with the living God and want to share His immeasurable love, forgiveness, and redemption with others?

God made a costly investment in us when He sacrificed His only Son to save us from eternal destruction. As Christians, it is our responsibility to share that glorious story of redemption. Are we willing to make that investment of love, time, patience, energy and prayer in the lives of others, so that they may receive the gift of eternal life? 

Forty-three years ago, a co-worker asked me a question that opened the door to share my faith. "What makes you so happy all the time?" I was a divorced mother of a young son and struggling to make ends meet. Yet I was the happiest I had ever been. She was a young woman who was living a carefree, dangerous lifestyle and headed for destruction. I answered her question and over time, I had the privilege of leading her to Christ. She not only accepted Christ as her Savior, but her life radically changed for the better. She met and married a godly man with whom she raised two beautiful children, who love the Lord. Over the years, she has led her extended family to Christ. She is a prolific, published author of Christian fiction and has won numerous awards for her writing.  More importantly, she loves the Lord and shares her faith with others.

We are God's representatives on earth. We never know how our testimony can affect one person. By sharing the love of Christ with just one person, it can have a rippling effect that reaches far and wide.

Pastor and evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, who has led hundreds of thousands to Christ said, "If we were measured by our love, what size would we be?" We reveal the size of our heart by the size of our love for others. We don't have to be an evangelist or pastor to share our faith. The only prerequisite is that we love one another as Christ loves us. By our love for our fellow man, we will be known as His disciples (John 13:34-35).

The evil that we are witnessing is birthed out of rebellion, disobedience, apathy, lust, greed, and immorality.  We, who have THE TRUTH...are to “Go therefore and make disciples [believers, advocates and pupils] of all nations [people and races], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).




Monday, September 14, 2015

HOPE...WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS


I stepped through the sliding glass door and discovered that my yellow rose bush had withered and died. The beautiful blooms and green leaves were gone, and all that remained were brown twigs. As I lamented over its demise, I noticed three, bright green stems firmly secured in the soil. While I marveled at the little plant's tenacity to survive, the Lord spoke into my spirit, "When things look hopeless, never give up, because life and hope are in Me."


Many of you know that 5 1/2 years ago, my husband was given a death sentence. He had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Thyroid Cancer, which had metastasized into his larynx and 50 lymph nodes. Although the surgeons promised to do all that was within their medical abilities, the prognosis was grim.


Over the years, my husband and I have experienced the miraculous power that comes from speaking the living and active Word of God. Jesus said, "In solemn (sworn, honest) truth I tell you, anyone believing in Me shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask Him for anything, using My name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you" (John 14:12-13).

Our hope rested in Jesus Christ and His promises. "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). The opposite of hope is fear. Satan uses fear to divert and manipulate the plans that God has for us. The enemy was trying to rob my husband of his hope, so that he would forfeit the future God had planned for him, but I knew that God wasn't finished with him. We would enter into a spiritual battle that would require arming ourselves with God's Word.

Miraculously, my husband survived the 14-hour surgery only to struggle the first month with shed tears and questions: "Why God? Why me, God? What did I do to deserve this?" I assured my husband that God was not "punishing him," but that our mortal bodies are subject to accidents, injuries and disease. Fortunately, through the blood of Jesus, healing is available to those who believe and do not doubt.

Nothing is impossible with God, for He sends forth His Word and heals and rescues, from destruction, those who call upon Him (Psalm 107:20). My husband would not die but live and declare God's works and tell of the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 118:17).


One step, one prayer, and one day at a time, we trusted God and spoke life-affirming scriptures as we climbed what seemed to be an impossible mountain. And yes, there were times when we lost our footing and slipped into despair, but we kept pressing on, reaching for the next handhold in the cleft of the Rock, because Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain (any obstacle), be taken up and cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you" (Mark 11:23). Five years later, we received the news we had been praying for. Doctors declared him "a miracle." We had reached the summit and planted our flag of victory. 


God's Word is living power. It is sharper than the sharpest sword, cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires and exposing the purposes of the heart (Hebrew 4:12). Often God allows us to pass through difficulties to reveal our inner strengths and to bring to light those hidden things that weigh us down and diminish our faith.

God is the potter and we are the clay. He spins the wheel of life and as the wheel turns, His hands lovingly caress, shape, and form us into His vessels of honor, which will then hold His living Word to be poured out upon the world.

By faith we understand that God spoke the universe into existence, so that what is seen, was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11:3 NIV) Jesus is the incarnation of God's Word. When we speak His Word, we speak power and life. We learn the power of speaking God's Word when we read the dialogue between Satan and Jesus:

 
            Jesus was led by the Spirit to fast 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. When He was hungry, the devil saw his opportunity to tempt Jesus and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread." But Jesus told him, "No! The Scriptures say, 'People do not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

(Just as we must nourish our bodies with food, we must also nourish our spirits and souls with the living Word of God).

            Then the devil took Him to the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem, and said, "If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order His angels to protect you, and they will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone.'" Jesus responded, "The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.'" 
(Satan, who is an expert at twisting the Word of God, comes to kill, steal and destroy our faith, trust, hope, peace, and our bodies. If he can cause us to question the goodness of God and the truth of His Word, then he has won, and we have lost. That is what he did to Adam and Eve and they lost their souls and the souls of all mankind. Fortunately, Jesus redeemed us from eternal death with His shed blood. It is our choice to accept or reject what our Lord did for us).

            Next the devil took Him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and said,  "I will give it all to you if you  will kneel down and worship me." "Get out of here, Satan," Jesus told him. "For the Scriptures say, You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.'" Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus  (Matthew 4:1-11 NLT). 


(Satan always makes promises that sound too good to be true, but those promises are lies that lead to death and destruction.)


Satan challenged Jesus to deny the truth of God's Word and to believe his lies. Each time the Tempter spoke, Jesus responded, "The Scriptures say..." The Lord calls us to respond in like manner.

When things seem hopeless and those negative voices try to infuse our heart with fear and rob us of our peace and joy, we are to speak the Word as it applies to our life. For example: "The Scriptures say, He was wounded for [my] transgressions, He was bruised for [my] iniquities: the chastisement of [my] peace was upon Him; and with His stripes [I am] healed" (Isaiah 53:5). "The Scriptures say, God has not given [me] a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). "The Scriptures say, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippian 4:14), etc. The "Scriptures say, I will live and not die" (Psalm 118:17).


We call those things which are not as though they are" (Romans 4:17). For the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16 NIV). We have "right standing" with God because of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. In other words, as Christ followers, we are to speak those things in faith, according to His will, and believe that we will receive.


God has the final say. Let us run with perseverance, the race set before us and fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the source and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2.). We must never forget that there is always hope in every circumstance.

Whatever battles we are fighting, we must speak His Word, which releases power, truth, and miracles into that situation. We must believe in faith that God hears His spoken Word as we speak it, and then He performs it in His time. 

The Lord delights in those who [reverence] Him,
Who put their hope in His unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).