Monday, September 19, 2016

SURRENDERED

The most exciting thing about the Bible is that you can read and study a scripture numerous times and then one day, a certain passage stands out and you say, "Wow, why didn't I see that before?" The following highlighted scripture reveals an important truth that I had missed.

The sons of Jacob, each with their family, moved to Egypt with their father to join Joseph, who was already there as Governor of Egypt. Eventually Joseph and his brothers died, ending that generation. But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land. Eventually, a new Egyptian king came to power, who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more." So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves and appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. So the Egyptians, ruthless in all their demands, worked the people of Israel without mercy (Exodus 1:1-15).

The startling fact is that the Israelites not only outnumbered the Egyptians, but they were stronger and more powerful. Yet they acquiesced their power to the Egyptians. They lost sight of Who had made them a great nation. The parallel between the people of our nation and the Israelites is astonishingly alike. We, as a nation, have lost sight of the One Who made us great.

The Israelites had served and worshipped God; therefore they had His favor, blessings, and protection. They were stronger than the Egyptians who worshipped false gods, but instead of the Israelites recognizing their strength and looking to God who had blessed, prospered, and grown them into a mighty nation, they gave way to fear and threats and surrendered to slavery and oppression. This was not God's plan for them.  

The America that we have always loved, was a nation admired and respected around the world for its strength, power, values, and blessings, secured and maintained through faith in God and the tenets on which this nation was founded. However, over recent years, America has acquiesed to the few who have methodically worked to dismantle Christian core values and our Constitutional rights, resulting in a polytheistic, multicultural, atheistic mindset, that mocks God and His Word, persecutes His people, justifies the murder of innocent children, and tolerates all manner of sin.

The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, limit the power of the federal government. They include natural rights given to human beings from their Creator. However, we will look at the first two amendments for their significance in today's world.

The First Amendment protects speech, religion, assembly, and the press: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." 

Over the last few years, "freedom of speech" and "respecting an establishment of religion" have been under attack. "Political Correctness" has been taken to an extreme as rights are denied Christians. Some have lost businesses or are under the threat of losing their business because they won't marginalize their faith and beliefs and submit to the establishment. People are unjustly accused and fired and/or sued on the word of someone who said they felt "offended." And pastors are warned about what they can and cannot say from the pulpit.

The Second Amendment is another amendment critical to citizens' rights. It was written to insure gun ownership as an individual right. Although the amendment begins with a reference to militias, it clearly adds that, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," currently argued as not a legitimate right. (I agree that stricter vetting needs to be in place so that felons, the mentally ill, and "visitors" with temporary visas from terrorist countries are not allowed access to guns.)

The word, "shall" expresses a future tense. The Framers of the Constitution intended that, "shall not be infringed," would live in perpetuity. They knew that once our right to protect ourselves was eroded and then completely removed, we would be under the control of a dictatorship, as in Nazi Germany, which confiscated all guns, leaving the people without protection. Six million Jews, nine million Gentiles, three million Poles, and multitudes of people from over thirty other nationalities were annihilated. They had said, "That could never happen."

The Constitution guarantees personal freedoms and rights with clear and explicit limitations on the government's power. These detailed declarations emphatically state that all powers, not specifically delegated to Congress by the Constitution, are reserved for the states or the people. Currently states' and citizens' rights are being dictated to and infringed upon. Our Forefathers wanted to protect citizens so that the same abuses suffered by the colonists under King George, would never happen again. The Declaration of Independence was created to insure those protections and entitlements.

The Declaration of Independence was secretly birthed at Philadelphia's Constitutional Convention in 1787. During the proceedings, differences and anger arose. Dr. Benjamin Franklin appealed for harmony and asked that they prayerfully seek God's intervention. Outside closed doors, a crowd anxiously awaited the outcome. As Franklin exited the convention, he was approached by a woman who asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got...a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

A "republic" is defined as a state in which supreme power is held by the people, their elected representatives, and an elected president. Conversely, a "monarchy" is controlled by a sovereign head of state, such as a king, queen, emperor, ruler, or a person who holds and wields absolute, oppressive power. For that reason, it behooves the citizens of the United States to keep their republic, one nation under God.

Franklin Graham recently said, "The moral and political walls of our nations are crumbling but we've got an opportunity to make a difference. We can change the course of America if we pray, vote, and engage in the political process."

John Adams, the chief architect of the Constitution, stated, "Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”

Over the last thirty years, values and beliefs have been compromised, conceded, and surrendered to a few who would like to remove all vestiges of God and the freedoms that were guaranteed to us through the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This nation and its leaders have lost sight of Who made it great. The designers of those documents understood that without God at the helm, "the ship of state" would sink. 

The Lord asks, "Heaven is My throne, and the earth is the footstool of My feet; what kind of house will you build for Me? Or what place is there for My repose?" (Acts 7:49) Where is God welcomed in this nation? He has been removed from public places, government buildings, schools, sporting events, graduations, and the list goes on. Until we put God back into this nation, a nation that was founded on His Word, we will be as the Israelites had been...slaves...surrendered to an oppressive taskmaster.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,
But against principalities, against powers, 
Against the rulers of the darkness of the this world, 
Against spiritual wickedness in high places.
(Ephesians 6:12)
A PRAYER:
LORD, this great nation that You love, has lost its way. Your Word tells us that if Your people, who are called by Your name, will humble themselves and pray and seek Your face and turn from their wicked ways, then You will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). I pray that your people who have rejected You, will humble themselves, repent, and turn to You. I ask for Your strength, discernment, and wisdom as I seek You and Your will. I ask that You raise up men and women who will pray for righteousness and truth in the halls of government. I ask that You place Godly men and women in city, state, and federal positions, and empower them with wisdom and discernment, thus enabling them to make fair and godly decisions as representatives of this great nation and Your people. Open hearts to realize that their vote affords them the privilege of having a voice, denied by many throughout the world. Help me and others to prayerfully consider each candidate, according to Your Biblical truths. It is in Jesus name that I pray. Amen.


Monday, September 12, 2016

LEFTOVERS

It never ceases to amaze me how God speaks to us through nature. Recently, I had a six-month dental cleaning, so as I waited for the hygienist, I observed two doves outside the window. One dove was at the top of the feeder and the other was eating from the ground. As I pondered why the dove on the ground would not eat from the feeder, the Lord interrupted my thoughts, "Do you see the dove at the top of the feeder, where the source of food is located? Now look at the dove on the ground gathering the leftovers. I Am My children's Source, but instead, they choose to be satisfied with leftovers." As I sat there and thought about what God had just said, I realized the stark truth of His statement in my own life.

Despite having first hand experience in eating leftovers, I looked up the meaning of the word. "Leftovers" are defined as residue, remains, leavings, and scraps. My grandfather would give "scraps" to the pigs and chickens. Clearly, since our Heavenly Father desires to give us His best, that definition gives a new perspective on how humans settle for the minimal in life and do not expect God's best. But how do we receive God's best? We go to The Source."

"Source" is defined as origin, starting point, history, beginning, genesis, author, originator, initiator, and creator. God is the Originator, Initiator, and Creator of all things. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing could have come into being (Genesis 1:1) (Psalm 24:1-2) (John 1:3). He wants us to believe Him for more than just leftovers.

It is important to revisit the starting point of all creation, so that we understand the nuances of Satan's great deception, which tells us that God withholds good things. As a result, we accept the world's leftovers. So for clarity, we go to the beginning of Satan's lie.

We all know the story. God planted a beautiful and lush garden in Eden. In the middle of the garden was the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He then took Adam, whom He had formed from dust, and put him in the Garden to tend and keep it. God told him to freely eat of every tree, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He warned that if he ate of that tree, he would "surely die." Then, the Lord recognized that the animals had mates but Adam had no helpmate, so God took a rib from Adam and created woman (Genesis 2:8-24).

Adam had everything he needed, including his wife, Eve, but his utopia was about to collapse. The serpent, Satan, who was the most deceitful and shrewd of all God's creation, came to Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

Satan knew that God had not said "every tree" but he wanted to engage Eve in a debate. She took the bait, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” Satan quickly responded, “You will not certainly die. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-6). The devil had diabolically injected doubt, thus setting the hook.

Eve's first mistake was giving ear to Satan's distortion of the truth. He is very good at twisting truth so that he can capture our attention. He bates the hook with what he knows will appeal to our carnal nature and then casts the line. He told a partial truth. They would not physically die...then, but knowledge of good and evil would bring about immediate death to their spirits, and their physical bodies would eventually deteriorate and die. That is why it's vitally important to know the truth of God's Word so that we can discern His truth from Satan's bated deceptions.

Satan challenges us with negative thoughts that cause us to doubt God and question His goodness. If we believe that God withholds good things, doesn't care about every detail of our lives, and only wants to control us, then we will depend on self and the world to find direction, happiness, fulfillment, and solutions to our problems. The greatest lie that Satan tells us is that if we surrender our lives, wants, needs, and desires to God, we will be bored, unfulfilled, and miserable.

The second mistake that Eve made was to believe Satan's lie that God was withholding something good from her. God desires to protect and bless us, but the perpetuation of Satan's lie causes many to miss out on God's best. Had Adam and Eve believed that God was their complete and total Source, they would not have disobeyed, which led to death and destruction for them and all of mankind. Only the blood of Jesus Christ would be able to redeem what was forfeited in the Garden.

God has not changed. He is Jehovah-Jireh, "the LORD is my Provider." He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. There is no variableness in Him. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17 NIV). It is mistrust and unbelief that cause us to use our own devices to fulfill our needs.

Jesus told us not to be anxious about what we drink or eat or our clothing, for the unbelievers worry about those things. Our heavenly Father knows what we need, but we must seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, and then those things that we seek will be given to us (Matthew 6:31-33).

We must first understand that His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways His ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. Therefore, if we trust in the LORD and acknowledge Him with all our heart and not trust in our own understanding, He will direct us in the way that we should go and  satisfy our desire with good things (Isaiah 55:8-9; Psalm 32:8; 34:9-10; 3:5-6).

The ego tells us that achievements result from our own efforts. However, God's Word tells us that a man can receive nothing, unless it has been given to him from heaven. Yes, we have talents and abilities, but those are gifts from God. When we surrender those talents and abilities to Him, He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to His power that works in us (John 3:27; Ephesians 3:20,21).

We are to delight ourselves in the Lord and commit everything we do to Him, because when we trust Him, He helps us do things that we thought were impossible. He will even make sure that our innocence is known by everyone as He vindicates us with His justice. For that reason, He calls us to rest in Him and wait patiently for Him to act on our behalf (Psalm 37:4-7).

God is our Provider and Source for all things. We can trust Him as our vindicator, healer, restorer, provider, and the source of all wisdom and knowledge. Although the enemy tries to convince us otherwise, we can do nothing without God. Yes, we may succeed in some areas with a lot of striving, but why would we want to work against ourselves, by not working with God? He said, I know the plans that I have for you...plans for your well-being and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). He will guide and lead us to those good places that we never thought to go.

When we don't go to God as our Source, we find ourselves struggling to accomplish things on our own. Instead of having His best, we then settle for leftovers.

A PRAYER:

Lord, I am powerless to control or fix (list your needs and problems). I need Your help. Your Word tells me that if I seek You and put my faith in You and not in the circumstances and my own efforts, that You, who created the heavens and the earth and all things in it, are more than able to heal, provide for, protect, and guide me in all areas of my life. I ask that You open doors of opportunity that no man can close; close doors where You don't want me to enter; and close the mouths of liars that purpose to bring harm. Direct my steps that I may find favor with those people that You place in my path. Forgive me for resisting Your will and accepting leftovers. I turn to You as my Source and surrender all to Your care and provision. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.