Monday, June 26, 2017

THE WIDOW - AGAIN

Last week, I posted, Do It...Afraid, in which I said that if God is leading you to do something that makes no sense to your reasoning, take that step of faith and do it...afraid. In pushing through the fear and doubt, you will witness a miracle. The following is a partial repost of The Widow, written three years ago. It is a true account of my interaction with a waitress and how obedience brought blessings to a stranger. 

THE WIDOW

We are Christ’s ambassadors.
God is using us to speak to you:
We beg you, as though Christ Himself 
were here pleading with you,
Receive the love He offers you—
be reconciled to God.
(2 Corinthians 5:20 TLB)
  
I awoke that beautiful sunny morning to the odd thought of eating breakfast at a buffet restaurant that my husband and I had never visited. I told him that I felt strongly that we were supposed to go to that particular restaurant. When we arrived, it was very crowded, so while my husband stood in line to pre-pay, I scanned the room for a table and sat down.

I immediately noticed the waitress. She looked older then her actual age might have been. Her thin frame, the stoop of her shoulders, her drawn face with sad eyes, and her un-kept, graying hair told a story of struggle and sorrow.

I watched her move from table to table and tend 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 for him. He dismissed her with a harsh, "No!" He then stood up, and with a flick of his wrist, threw a single dollar on the table and left.

The waitress seemed frozen in place with her eyes transfixed on the "tip."  With a sadness that was palatable, her shoulders lowered a little more as she gingerly placed the dollar into her apron. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I was overwhelmed with a cascade of tears and emotion that I couldn't process or contain.

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

As my husband approached our table, I quickly wiped the tears from my eyes and face. Just then the Lord told me to place a specific amount of money in her hand and tell 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 in prayer.  Then lifting his eyes to meet mine, he said the same dollar amount, thus verifying God's word to me.

As we finished breakfast, she approached our table and asked if there was anything else she could get 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 He has not forgotten you." Tears began to stream down her face as she said, "My husband recently 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 but that He would always be with her.

God's love for us is limitless. 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 in ways that we would never expect. The first time that He instructed me to give a personal message, it was to a young woman whom I had never met. I was trembling with the thought that this non-believer would think I was completely nuts. Not only did she receive what the Lord had told me to say, but she excitedly reveived Christ as her Savior and said that I was a direct answer to the following prayer that she had prayed the night before, "God, if you really exist, show me."

Too often, when we hear that still small voice in our spirit, we reason away what He is asking us to do. Some know that it's God, but their response is, "I can't say that! "I can't do that!" They'll think I'm crazy." However, I decided years ago that I would rather be His crazy messenger, then to never again know the joy and awe that is experienced each time I respond to His amazing leading.

We are God's messengers while on earth. He has placed within us the ability to be His conduit for changing lives, if we will trust His voice and His leading. 

Each of us can discover the joy and fulfillment in being His messenger, if we understand that His instructions very often make no sense to our human reasoning. But each time that we obey, we witness the miraculous and His intervening love and blessings fulfilled in the lives of others. That alone brings joy to our hearts that is never forgotten. 

Such confidence we have through Christ before God.  Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:4).

PRAYER:

Father, I ask that You give me faith to obey Your voice, no matter the situation or challenge, so that I may be a messenger of Your love. Let not fear of failure, embarrassment, or of what people might think ever stop me from doing Your will. In Jesus name, amen.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

DO IT...AFRAID

"If we did all the things we are capable of,
we would literally astound ourselves."
Thomas Edison


Fear is the enemy of our soul. It is a powerful, driving force that re-directs us away from God's best and robs us of our faith and our peace of mind.

Peace of mind is lost when we entertain fear...fear of failure, fear of success, fear of losing a job, fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of what people might think, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of war, fear of sickness, and fear of death, just to name a few. Some fears are real and justified, but most are irrational and motivated by insecurities, lack of knowledge, and a false belief that something undesirable might happen. Fear is the absence of faith.

What do I mean when I say, "Do it...afraid?" Simply put, it means that no matter how fearful we might be, if God is leading us to do something that is challenging and makes no sense to our carnal thinking, we must take that first step in faith and push through the fear. He will work all things together for our benefit and for the benefit of others, if we follow His lead. For God will never ask us to do anything that He has not already given us the ability and means to accomplish His request. 

I understand fear that prevents a person from fulfilling their potential. My fears of failure and rejection overshadowed the gifts that God had placed within me until I made the decision to step out in faith and push through those fears. Interestingly, as I shared the Gospel...afraid,
wrote...afraid, and led praise and worship...afraid,
each step in faith abolished those false fears. Before I realized it, I was doing those things with joy and confidence that God would be with me in whatever He asked of me.

The most faith-filled people in scripture and those who have achieved success in today's world learned to overcome adversity and challenges by pushing past fears and doubts. Henry Ford, the great American industrialist, said, "One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do."

When Job suffered his terrible losses, he made a very profound statement, "What I always feared has happened to me" (Job 3:25 TLB). That is why God urges us to fix our thoughts on what is true, good, and right, and to think on those things that are pure, lovely, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). When we meditate on negative thoughts, doubts, and unbelief, we invite fear into our hearts and minds, which then brings about the very defeat and failure we feared.

There will be times when God will ask us to do what is difficult, uncomfortable, challenging, inconvenient, and might even cost us something. But His direction and guidance should outweigh any fear that would prevent us from moving forward in obedience to His will and purposes.

Very often we argue that we are not qualified for the task at hand. Maybe we don't feel worthy because of past mistakes and failures, so we fear further failure and possible negative reactions for our efforts. However, when we surrendered our heart to the Lord, He forgave and forgot our past. At that moment, we became a new creature in Christ, with a fresh, new beginning.

We must release past mistakes and regrets, so that we can embrace the blessings that God planned for us. Alexander Graham Bell said, "When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." 

Failure and disappointment should never keep us in the past, thereby robbing the present. Many failures are actually building blocks to future successes and are often a part of God's plan. Therefore, we must trust God and follow His lead. It is the mature Christian who uses failure as an opportunity to grow, change, and improve.

God created us and knows the gifts and talents that He placed within us. He knows our capabilities, our strengths and our weaknesses better than we know them. Jesus told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul responded, that he would rather boast about his weaknesses, so that the power of Christ might dwell in him (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

The Word tells us not to be afraid or to lose heart; rather, we are to be strong and courageous  
(I Chronicles 22:13).  For fear will cause us to make snap decisions that bring unwanted results. Fear will misdirect and sideline our dreams along with God's purposes for us. But as His children, we are called to trust in Him with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Before we were born, God gave an assignment to each person, to be carried out on earth. We are His ears, eyes, mouths, hands, and feet that are to help build His Church through the gifts and talents imparted to us. But we must seek Him to know what He would have us do. Some may know what they have been called to do, but they are afraid to step out in faith and do it. Do it anyway...do it afraid. Push through that doubt and fear, knowing that step-by-step, God leads and guides all who seek to do His will, thereby fulfilling His purposes on earth.


PRAYER: 
LORD, I want to be in Your will, accomplishing Your purposes. Reveal my unique purpose and use me according to Your will. Help me to overcome my fears and doubts, so that I may respond to Your direction. Give me peace and confidence that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). And give me that measure of faith to do it...afraid, as I push through any fears to achieve success. In Jesus name, amen.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A MATTER OF THE HEART
As I was praying, I saw my sweet Brandi asleep with her head resting on my Bible, and I thought, Wouldn't it be great if we could achieve faith and biblical knowledge through osmosis? Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way, which brings us to the following scripture.

For assuredly, 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 11:23-24 NKJV). 
This scripture was like a neon sign flashing for my attention. Could it be that the heart is the key to unlocking answered prayer? Is there a relationship between faith and the heart? In my search for answers, I discovered numerous scriptural truths revealing that faith is a matter of the heart. For brevity, I have listed only a few of those truths.
*The heart is the core of who we really are. It is where our thoughts, desires, purposes, intentions, character, will, emotions, and knowledge of God's Word reside. Jesus said, "out of men's hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean (Mark 7:21-23). The problems that we see in the world are not external; they are the result of an internal "heart" problem. 
*"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The heart is a reservoir for either good or evil. 
*An evil heart justifies sin...often sin that the world condones. It is a heart easily influened by the world's values, standards, and beliefs. Consequently, a deceived heart becomes an “evil heart of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:12). Conversely, a pure heart has moral strength, integrity, resolve, and character. Jesus said that the pure in heart are blessed (Matthew 5:8).

*Real, abiding faith comes from a pure heart. Therefore, inventory must be taken of what we are storing in our heart. Have we tucked away unforgiveness, judgment, bitterness, criticism, anger, jealousy, bigotry, skepticism, doubt, unbelief, and hidden sins of the flesh? The Word, when imbedded in the heart, alerts and safeguards against sinning (Psalm 119:11).
*The mouth reveals what is stored within the heart. We are warned that we are snared and taken by the words of our mouth (Proverbs 6:2). The heart is a reservoir that stores what we hear and what our eyes view. For that reason, God calls us to think and meditate on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and morally excellent (Philippians 4:8)
*Doubt and unbelief are enemies of the heart. Doubt questions the legitimacy of God's Word and dissects and compartmentalizes what it chooses to believe. According to a 2017 Gallup Poll, only 24 percent of people believe the Bible to be the literal Word of God. Doubt and skepticism are faith destroyers that produce a hard, proud, and wicked heart of unbelief. For that reason, God calls us to believe and trust His Word as being living and powerful. It is the Word that discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). In other words, as we read the Bible, its truths read our heart and bring us under conviction. 

*The heart thinks and has all kinds of desires. There is the emotional part of the heart that, if not guarded, can be deceived and even broken. Jesus asked, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts (anything contrary to God's Word) in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4) For that reason, scripture warns against lust, covetousness, and envy, and urges us to set our heart on those things above (Colossians 3:1), for where our treasure is, there our heart will be found (Matthew 6:21). Thus, we ask: What do I treasure most? What do I pursue? Is God my first pursuit? 

*The heart is the key to faith. If the heart is not right and doubt prevails, any confession of faith is of little consequence. Repeating scripture only works when we believe the Word and move it from our head to our heart. When we speak God's Word, do we really believe what we are speaking, or are we simply following a prayer-formula in hopes of generating results?
*Faith dwells in a pure heart that seeks God with a whole heart.  If we don’t know God’s Word, it is not possible to believe Him, because the things of this world can quickly deceive, contaminate, and ensnare the heart. Faith only works in a pure heart that studies, believes, meditates on and applies God’s Word. The heart's stored Word can then be spoken with unwavering faith (Proverbs 22:17-18). 
*An opened heart understands, discerns, and gives insight, but the foolish heart is closed to God’s revelation and discernment. That is why it is imperative that scripture be incribed on the heart.
*Finally, the heart is the inner forum where decisions are made. In the heart, people plan their course, but the Lord determines their steps (Proverbs 16:9). Therefore, we must be vigilant in protecting our heart against our own willful ambitions, because it is from the heart that flows the bountiful source of life (Proverbs 4:23).

The Word of God is the power that works in a person and is manifested through the Holy Spirit. It is His Word that anchors the heart to an enduring faith that believes that all things are possible with God (Mark 9:23). 

PRAYER: LORD, You look deep within the mind and discern the intentions of the heart. Help me to have a pure heart that desires Your will and wholly seeks Your heart, knowledge, and wisdom in Your Word. For those who seek You will never lack any good thing (Psalm 34:10 NIV). In Jesus name, amen.