Monday, July 2, 2018



THE PERFECT MARRIAGE

What is the perfect marriage? There are no "perfect marriages." The only perfect marriage will be when Christ comes for His bride—the Church. Until then, marriage is the union of two very imperfect souls that have their own distinct personalities, likes and dislikes, opinions, and views. Those differences are challenging enough, so when expectations plummet, and the couple is not experiencing unbridled harmony, they begin to question the marriage. 

Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. To base love on feelings is folly, because feelings are based on emotions, which are transitory like the weather. Conversely, real love is steady and constant. It is patient and kind. It does not envy; it does not brag and is not proud. It does not dishonor the other, and does not demand its own way. It is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, trust, hopes, and perseveres. Love never fails (I Corinthians 13:4-7).

Marriage must be a partnership and not a collision of wills. A couple that is united in the purposes of God can successfully navigate through challenges that will surely come. But to do that, they must work together as one, without having any expectations that their spouse will "complete them" as a person, for only God can make us whole in body, mind, and spirit. 

I have heard people say,  "We are just too different. We've drifted apart." Ironically, those opposite traits initially drew each to the other before marrying. If batteries didn't have opposite polarities, they wouldn't work. Contrasting polarities can enrich a marriage, when both appreciate and embrace those differences with biblical love.

During the first two years of our marriage, my husband and I struggled with respectfully communicating our opinions to each other. Fortunately, we have always been united in our desire to obey God's Word and be led by His Holy Spirit. We knew that unforgiveness, criticism, and keeping record of wrongs are major deathblows to a marriage. Therefore, we resolved to persevere in prayer with patience, forgiveness, and humility, to reach godly solutions (I Corinthians 13:4-7).

Constructive arguing can be healthy when a couple presents their viewpoint respectfully, calmly, and without accusations and insults. For a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1). 

Most importantly, a husband and wife must be dedicated in praying for each other and with each other. Prayer must be combined with reading God's Word to obtain knowledge, understanding, discernment, and insight into what is true, so that both may remain blameless before Christ. For love abounds when we have understanding of God's Word and His teaching to love one another as He has loved us (Philippians 1:9-10; John 13:34). Additionally, we must be devoted to one another by loving, honoring, and giving preference to the other (putting the other first) (Romans 12:10). Preferring the other can be challenging, because the carnal flesh wants its own way.


What does it mean to be devoted? It means to be committed, loyal, faithful, true, steadfast, dedicated, loving, affectionate, caring, and admiring. Therefore, couples should never compare their marriage to other marriages. If devotion to God is first and foremost, then devotion to one's spouse and to the marriage will follow. 

There will always be disagreements throughout a marriage, simply because two individuals have, at various times, opposing thoughts and views. However, those issues can be amicably resolved when the couple expresses respect, humility, gentleness, patience, and is committed to encouraging and praying with and for each other.  

An argument should never sever communication, nor should the sun go down on one's anger (Ephesians 4:26). When a couple reaches an impasse, they should respectfully say to each other, "I love you. Let's pray and ask God for His wisdom and guidance for..." That forces pride and ego to surrender, as both spouses join in unity to humble themselves before each other and the Lord. For "behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!(Psalm 133:1KJV)

Couples must be serious and vigilant in protecting their marriage, because "the adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8)His purpose is to divide, conquer, and destroy families. Just as he brought division between Adam and Eve in the Garden, his goal is to create disharmony between a man and his wife. Once discord happens, the enemy has a foothold. That is why God tells us that where two or three gather in His name, He is in the midst (Matthew 18:20). And where God is present, the enemy is not. A husband and wife's unity and commitment to prayer is the enemy's nemesis.

How do we truly love one another? We learn by reading and understanding God through His Word, for He is the essence and embodiment of agape love. We are called to follow His example in everything we do just as a much-loved child imitates their father. We are to be full of love for others, following the example of Christ who loved us and gave Himself to God as a sacrifice to take away our sins (Ephesians 5:1-2). 

Marriage is a lifelong commitment that should never be entered into lightly. Therefore, it is imperative that couples, planning to marry, seek God's will and His direction with all their heart. 

Most newlyweds have a "forever" attitude, but in the blush of wedded bliss, there is a tendency to overlook the fact that marriage is not immune to heartache, disagreements, disappointments, illness, tragedy, and pain. The fairytale, happily-ever-after scenario is just that­—a fairytale. Those who have been married for any length of time will agree that the success or failure of a marriage depends upon their dedication to God and their commitment to each other. A marriage certificate does not come with a lifetime warranty, guaranteeing perfect happiness and a conflict-free marriage. 

There is only one lifetime warranty that can be applied to a marriage, and that is the Word of God. That is truest and most perfect warranty against failure, destruction, and marital implosion, for it is His Word that teaches us how to love and overcome conflict. 

My husband and I have had our marriage under God's warranty for 38 years and counting. It is the best warranty of all. 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from [us], along with all malice. We are called to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave [us] (Ephesians 4:31).

PRAYER:
FATHER, I thank you for our marriage. Teach us to communicate in love and to always listen and respect each other's thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Help us to have patience, gentleness, humility, forgiveness, and unconditional love for each other. Heal those broken areas and bring reconciliation where there has been division. For Your love covers a multitude of sins. In Jesus name, amen.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

THE FATHER OF LIES
 
Keep the door bolted against lying.

My formative years were shaped around the philosophy that lying had its place, especially if a little "white lie" was told to avoid hurting someone. However, lying is part of our old fallen nature that existed before we surrendered our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ. 

We see that old sinful nature exposed in very young children with a similar scenario played out in many homes. A child stands covered in chocolate—the perfect billboard for Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. You ask them if they ate the chocolate bar that you had hidden in the pantry. Their guilty, chocolate-covered face betrays them as they answer, "No." If lying weren't so serious, it would be funny.

Children are told to tell the truth, but then, with all good and loving intentions, a parent might create elaborate, false stories or false explanations to answer their child's inquisitiveness. They might make false promises or ironically, as my parents did, tell an outright lie to insure compliance, "If you lie, your nose will grow like Pinocchio's." Of course, my parents were not Christians at that time, so they did not know God's position on lying; therefore, they couldn't pass that truth to us.

Students lie to their teachers. Employees lie to their bosses. Patients conceal the truth from their doctors. Spouses lie to spouses. Friends lie to friends. Parents lie to children. Children lie to parents. People lie about their age and weight. People conceal and lie about their past. People lie to themselves. The list of lies is endless. 

The Lord tells us that there are seven things that are an abomination to Him—haughtiness, lying, murdering, plotting evil, eagerness to do wrong, a false witness, and sowing discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). The harsh reality is that "all liars will have their part in the lake, which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8 NKJV).

Why is hell punishment for lying to those who do not repent? Jesus said this about those who lie, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44 NIV). 

What is a lie? The dictionary defines a lie as an untruth, falsehood, white lie, perjury, fabrication, falsification, deception, betrayal, made-up story, tale, half-truth, pretense, crookedness, exaggeration, fiction, evasiveness, and concealment. The verb form is to misinform, mislead, stretch the truth; hedge, evade, trick, conceal, or cheat. Even a "white" lie is a deception that invalidates a person's integrity. According to those definitions, at one time or another, we have all lied; therefore, we must repent. 

The Word tells us, Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:9-10). We are created in the image of God, who does not lie. If we have a relationship with all Truth (Jesus Christ), how can we justify lying in any form?

When I became a Christian, God revealed the importance of truthfulness. Truthfulness was relevant to me, because I had experienced pain and disappointment from those who had called themselves Christians, yet they had lied, broken promises, betrayed confidences, stolen from me, and had harbored hidden sin. What they had really stolen was my ability to trust God. After all, if I couldn't trust God's representatives, how could I trust Him? As a fledgling Christian, those betrayals and lies by fellow Christians were heartbreaking and painful. Today, it is not any less painful to be at the receiving end of a betrayal or lie.

We know the spiritual aspect of why we lie, but why do humans give into the temptation to lie? Dr. Robert S. Feldman, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, examined lying and deception for over 25 years and said, "People lie because they can get away with it; because it works for them. It's a way to get along with other people. It's a way to control [their] world, and it's a way that [they] can use to make people do what [they] want them to do." He went on to say that men usually lie to make themselves look better and to build themselves up, and women tend to lie to make others and themselves, feel good.      

We are daily inundated with false statements made by various people, ads, politicians, and the news media, that manipulate and distort the truth to promote their deceptive agendas. The enemy is relentless in using people and anything of this world to entice and draw us to his deceptions. Even false christs and false prophets will arise (currently present in many churches) and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24). 

Adam and Eve had every good gift from God, yet Satan was able to cleverly craft a lie, which they believed and then disobeyed God. We too are vulnerable to Satan's clever and enticing deceptions. Therefore, we must be prayerful and vigilant to discern and distinguish the truth from the lie. We must be sober-minded and watchful, for our adversary, the devil, prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).

The reality is that as human beings, we have all fallen for a lie. But we have also lied and embellished the truth. Romans 3:23-24 tell us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Praise God that He is quick to forgive us of our sins when we repent (Matthew 3:8).

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think (meditate) about such things" (Philippians 4:8).

PRAYER:
Lord, I come to You with a repentant heart. I realize that any form of lying is sin. Please forgive me for any and all lies, exaggerations, evasiveness, concealments, deceptions, half-truths,  and betrayals, whether intentional or unintentional. Help me each day to be aware of all untruth that might be poised on my tongue or any behaviors or thoughts that are not in keeping with Your will. I want to live a truthful and authentic life before You and others. In Jesus name, amen.

God is not human, that He should lie, 
not a human being, that He should change
His mind. Does He speak and then not act? 
Does He promise and not fulfill?
(Numbers 23:19)


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

LIFE'S CROCKPOT 

My husband and I love a thick and creamy homemade, chicken vegetable soup, so I decided to make some the other day. I pre-cooked the chicken, deboned it, and returned it to the pot. Then I added a variety of colorful vegetables and spices to the chicken and broth and allowed the ingredients to simmer. As the crockpot heated the ingredients, a wonderful aroma began to waft through our home, and it occurred to me that faith more often than not, develops like a potpourri of varying flavors, mingling in a simmering crockpot. 

A crockpot is a depository for cooking ingredients over a long period of time. This world is God's crockpot where He has been preparing mankind for heaven. His key ingredient is the Lord Jesus Christ. If Christ is not at the center of our life, then we are nothing more than a lost conglomerate of carnality that is self-seeking, self-serving, self-absorbed, vain, thoughtless, and looking out for number one—self. 

God monitors our response to the "heat" of life's challenges. For our responses determine the strength of our faith. Often when a crockpot reaches a full boil, we turn it to "medium" or "low." And when the soup is done, we then turn it to the "warm" setting for serving. Depending on what God is trying to accomplish within us, will determine the temperature He sets at different intervals of our life. 

God's love for us is so great, that He will not hesitate to turn the heat up from "low" to "high" in order to get our attention. He may also make adjustments when there is an imbalance in the flavor and fragrance of our life, because He desires that we, as Christ followers, carry and diffuse the fragrance of Christ throughout the world.

With Christ as the very center of our life, we must then be open to God's correction. Those of us, who cook, know that when preparing a dish, we often taste repeatedly to make various corrections and changes to the flavor until it is just right. God tells us, "whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid" (dense, ignorant, irrational, foolish) (Proverbs 12:1 NKJV). 

Correction means to amend a version of something or to rectify an error. Before we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, all of us were on the wrong path, walking in error. While on that path, we made many mistakes and added things to our lives that misdirected and misguided us. Some of those things harmed us. As Christ followers, we require daily correction, because each day, the flesh wants to revert to what it once knew and enjoyed. 

A good soup cannot be made in minutes; the Christian life cannot be made overnight. God has been patiently working in me for 47 years, for which I am grateful. He knows the potential  within me and within each of us. Therefore, He painstakingly guides us in making gradual corrections, which eventually give birth to maturity as a Christ follower. Hence, a sweet aroma reaches others, because we then carry the pleasing aroma of Christ to those being saved and those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV). For that reason, we must always be submitted to God, embracing His wisdom, His correction, and His knowledge, so that we can grow in faith.

 

Often, when cooking, we might not get the flavor just right because of too much or too little of an ingredient or seasoning. However, we don't throw the entire pot out because of a mistake or even a few mistakes. We keep working with the dish until it reaches the right consistency and flavor for serving. Equally as we learn and grow in the things of God, He doesn't become frustrated with us when we are not "seasoned" perfectly. He sees too much value in the ingredients that have been invested, so He continues to work with us. It is never an option to throw out what He started and begin again with all new ingredients, for He says, "if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance" (Romans 8:25 NKJV).


Perseverance means to be steadfast in doing something despite difficulty, delay, or obstacles in achieving success. With love and perseverance, God waits patiently for us to become that balanced blend of strength, courage, obedience, wisdom, humility, mercy, forgiveness, moral fiber, and faith. 

When life throws us a curveball, we must never give up, because so much has already been invested. If we become discouraged, we need to press in to God, knowing that He is bringing about a flavorful balance that will lend to a fragrant life that draws others to the cross.  

God's crockpot can be difficult and painful. We may encounter circumstances and challenges that we don't understand. However, that is not the time to resist God, because as ambassadors for Christ, God makes His appeal to the world through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). And very often those appeals are made through us in ways that we don't understand. Therefore, we must embrace the opportunity and trust and submit to His mighty hand. For in trusting Him, we achieve victorious faith that allows us to diffuse the fragrance of His knowledge to others, because we are the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

May we all submit to God, as His watchful eye monitors, and His steady hand stirs and tastes, until He is satisfied that we carry the fragrance of Christ. For God calls the world to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). And it is the aromatic fragrance emitting from us that will cause the lost and hungry to eagerly taste of His goodness. 

PRAYER:
LORD, help me to be teachable and submit to Your correction. Give me the gifts of perseverance and faith so that when life heats up with all of its challenges, I will draw closer to You and make the proper corrections, thereby, creating a sweet aroma in my life that reach others. In Jesus name, Amen. 

Monday, June 4, 2018


WE ARE NEVER TOO YOUNG OR TOO OLD TO READ GOD'S WORD

THE TABLET OF YOUR HEART
God has again impressed upon my heart the extreme importance of knowing, speaking, and committing His Word to memory. For He says, "My people are destroyed because they don't know Me" (Hosea 4:6 TLB). 
How can we know God? The Bible reveals God's character, His heart, and His great love for us. His Word teaches us how to follow His example. His Word encourages, directs, guides, disciplines, and it defines sin, so that we know how to recognize and avoid sin. His Word reveals who we are in Christ and our role on earth. His Word reveals the enemy's clever schemes to kill, rob, and destroy. His Word is knowledge, power, and all truth that can save us from the world's many deceptions, traps, and dangers.
"God's Word is in the heavens and is the same Word that set the foundations of the world. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He [Jesus, the Word] was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made, that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John1: 1-3 NKJV).
"[Jesus]was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, [the Jewish people], and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld [Jesus'] glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1: 10-14 NKJV).
Jesus is the incarnate Word, which is Spirit and all truth. When you read His Word, you are reading the very heart of God. For that reason, it is imperative that we write His Word upon the tablet of our heart, for it generates an active, life-giving power in and through us. The Apostle John said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are Spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63 NKJV).

The naysayers state that God's Word is nothing more than an expose´ of opinions and fanciful stories. Jesus clearly said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will by no means pass away" (Luke 21:32-34). "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of God endures forever" (Isaiah 40:8). His Words are like indelible ink to be permanently imprinted upon the heart.

Why is God's Word so important? Jesus said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4). In other words, nourishing the body with food is important, but more importantly, the soul must be nourished with the Word of God. It is the soul that seeks worldly joys and pleasures to fill those empty places that constantly strive for things to satisfy. Alas, the world's offerings can never satisfy a hungry soul. 

God's Word is powerful and firmly fixed in heaven (Psalm 119:89). It is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)

We might be able to fool others and ourselves, but God's Word exposes the true intentions and motives of every heart. For the Lord says that His Word, "is like a fire" that ignites a light in men's souls and purifies, cleanses, and illuminates their conscience. And "like a hammer," His Word breaks the rocky places of the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 23:29).

GOD spoke His Word and the worlds were formed and so was all creation. He continually urges us to speak His Word, for there is living, creative, restorative, delivering power in His Word. Thus, in committing His Word to memory, should we not have access to a Bible, we would be able to speak God's Word with His complete power and authority.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that we may be competent and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God's living Word, when actively working within us, fully equips us for all good decision making. 

We are told in Joshua 1:8 that God's Word must not depart from our mouth, but we must meditate on it day and night, so that we are careful to do His Word according to all that is written in it. Then, we will make our way prosperous and will have good success. 

His Word is the linchpin to receiving everything we need to successfully navigate this life on earth and experience joy that only the Lord can give. For His precepts are right, giving joy to the heart. His commands are radiant, giving light (revelation) to the eyes (our understanding) (Psalm 19:8).

God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Without His Word to light our way, we fall into error and are caught by the world's deceptions. For the Word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18). Therefore, we devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of His Word (Acts 6:4).

God's Word heals and delivers us from destruction (Psalm 107:20). Therefore, "let the Word of Christ dwell in [us] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16 ESV). 

PRAYER: 
Father, turn my eyes from seeking worthless things that have no eternal value in Your kingdom, and help me to seek Your way and purposes in Your Word. Help me to write Your Word on the tablet of my heart, so that I may know, speak, and live Your truths with faith, power, and authority. In Jesus name, amen.

"I have hidden Your Word in my heart 
that I might not sin against You."
(Psalm 119:11 NIV)

 Picture courtesy of David Beale

Monday, May 28, 2018



"COME TO ME..."

I was praying and this verse crossed my mind, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 NIV). As I meditated on this scripture, several thoughts came to mind.

The word, "burdened," is defined as a load or weight that is exceptionally heavy; a misfortune that causes hardship, anxiety, or grief. Jesus addressed the anguished Jewish people, who were required by the self-righteous Pharisees, to follow laws and regulations they had written and added to the 613 commandments already in place.


Jesus urged the people, "Come to Me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens" (Matthew 11:28 TLB). Jesus was telling them that in Him, there is rest and freedom from those things that enslave, when we allow Him to teach us. 

"Rest" means to cease work or movement in order to regain strength, health, or energy. Jesus was inviting all to a place of rest, but to find that rest, they would need to be teachable and hungry for truth and knowledge that only He could offer. In that truth and knowledge, they would find freedom from manmade constraints, thereby, discovering true freedom in Christ.

The constraints, pressures, and challenges of every day life place heavy burdens that we too often try to carry. For that reason, Jesus' words bear repeating, "Come to Me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens" (Matthew 11:28 TLB). He gives rest to our souls when we come to Him as teachable students.

Moses felt burdened and overwhelmed with the responsibility of leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land, so he asked God to teach him His ways, that he might have continued favor with God. The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14). It pleases God when we ask Him to teach us His ways.

God's response to Moses is His response to all who are faithful, available, and teachable. For only in Him, can we find our rest. God keeps us in perfect peace when our minds are placed steadfastly (unwaveringly, resolutely, dutifully, firmly) on Him; then we are able to trust Him (Isaiah 26:3). And where there is trust, there is freedom from fear, worry, and doubt.

Jesus was obedient unto death, because He trusted the Father and became the fulfillment of the Law of God. He carried the burden that we were meant to carry. That is why He calls to us, "...wear My yoke—for it fits perfectly."

Oxen are yoked (joined) together. When we are yoked with Christ, we are walking in tandem with Him. How then can we fail with Him by our side?

Michael and I are counted among the many who have grown weary and burdened by so many difficult challenges, but God calls to us, "Come to me..." "Let me teach you."  This has indeed, been a long season of learning and growing in faith for me and for my husband. 

We are all invited to "Cast [our] burdens on the Lord, and He shall sustain [us]; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved" (Psalm 55:22). He tells us, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10). 

Christianity is not religiosity that follows a set of manmade rules and mandates. It is a viable, living and active relationship with the sovereign God through His Son Jesus Christ. 

The word "Christian" is defined as a disciple (a follower and student of Christ), who enjoys daily intimate interaction through prayer and conversations with God. A disciple of Christ hungers for God's Word, because it feeds the soul and reveals the very nature and heart of God. 

"Come to Me..." "Let me teach you." Those words softly ring as a sweet invitation to respond to the Lord.  May we all respond daily to His invitation.

PRAYER:
FATHER, I humbly come to you this day and relinquish pride, unbelief, uncertainty, fear, worry, and anxiety. As You and I walk yoked together as one, teach me those things that You want me to know, so that I may find rest and peace in my soul. In Jesus name, amen.

Note: A butterfly represents change, endurance, hope, and a resurrected life.




Monday, May 21, 2018

YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE


DEATH
I was sixteen when my Dad died at age 45 of a heart attack. Devastated, angry, and confused, I wanted to know why God took our Dad.

Without a relationship with Christ, I had been consumed by a storm of grief and despair. I longed for hope and comfort. Then shortly after his death, I happened upon the movie, Carousel, in which the song, "You'll Never Walk Alone" had been sung. The following is a portion of the song, which touched my soul.
              When you walk through a storm, 
              Hold your head up high
              And don't be afraid of the dark.
              At the end of the storm, there's a golden sky
              And the sweet silver song of a lark.
              Walk on through the wind; walk on through the rain,
              Though your dreams be tossed and blown...
              Walk on; walk on, with hope in your heart,
              And you'll never walk alone; you'll never walk alone.
Songwriters: Oscar Hammerstein Ii / Richard Rodgers
You'll Never Walk Alone lyrics © Imagem Music Inc.

LIFE IN CHRIST
That song took on new meaning, when at age 25, I surrendered my heart to Jesus Christ and asked the Holy Spirit to fill me with His presence. Since then, His Spirit has guided, directed, and comforted me in life's difficulties. Even when the storms of life appeared hopelessly overpowering, I never walked alone. God has been a constant and present help throughout every storm and watched with me as each "golden sky" victoriously broke through the darkest clouds. 

FAITH AND DOUBT
There have been times in the past and even now, when overwhelming fear, doubt, and questions suddenly invade my peace. But haven't we all been hit with sudden "storms" that caused us to cry out to God and question Him? The disciples did.

Jesus had fallen asleep in the boat, when a violent storm arose, and water quickly filled the boat. Fearful, the disciples cried out, "Master, Master, we are going to drown!" Jesus awoke from a deep sleep and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then He asked them, "Where is your faith?"

The disciples were terrified and amazed. "Who is this man?" they asked each other. "When He gives a command, even the wind and waves obey Him!" (Luke 8:23-25)

"Who is this man?" We scratch our heads and wonder how could they have been so blind after all they had witnessed and experienced. They ate, slept, and walked with Him. They listened to His teachings and witnessed the miraculous. He had told them who He was and His mission on earth, and yet they still doubted and questioned.

Part of the answer rests in the fact that the disciples were human beings, who when faced with adversity, struggled with the same questions and doubts that become ours. Even though they had the incarnate scriptures daily with them, they didn't believe. 

I have heard people say, "If only I could have walked with Jesus and witnessed His miracles." The disciples had witnessed His miracles and sat under his teaching, yet they failed to believe. We have the living Word as the accurate representation of God's truth, but how much of God's Word do we really believe and apply to our lives?  

THE HOLY SPIRIT
The greater reason for the disciples' unbelief was that they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Jesus had not ascended to heaven; therefore, the Father had not sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in all who would receive Him. It is the Holy Spirit that gives revelation. Without the Holy Spirit to direct and guide, each disciple was like a ship without a rudder. Without the Holy Spirit, we are also like a ship without a rudder.

The Godhead is three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The following is a partial list of what The Holy Spirit does for us when we invite Him into our heart (John 14:26).

The Holy Spirit... 
...searches and shows God's deepest secrets (1 Corinthians 2:10).
...reveals mysteries (Daniel 2:28).
...guides us into all truth (John 16:13-15).
...convicts of sin and gives access to God the Father (Eph 2:18).
...empowers us (Luke 4:14; 24:49; Rom. 15:19; Acts 1:8).
...teaches us to pray (I John 5:14-15; Romans 8:26-27).
...washes and renews us (Titus 3:5)
...brings liberty and sets us free from sin and death (Rom. 8:2).
...sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:16)
...transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).
...distributes spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12:4; 8-10; Hebrews 2:4).
...anoints us for ministry (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38)
...comforts and gives us joy (Matthew 11:28; Acts 9:31; 1 Thess. 1:6).
...strengthens our spirits (Ephesians 3:16).
...seals us unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13; 4:30).

After Jesus' resurrection, He told the disciples, "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and  bring to remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14:26 NASB).

We are not complete until we welcome the Spirit's presence into our lives. He then becomes our Teacher and Advocate who leads, guides, and comforts us. With our permission, the Holy Spirit can daily transform us into the likeness of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 3:18).

STORMS ALWAYS END
Often the storms that we find ourselves in, as unpleasant as they may be, are permitted to show us the weaknesses in our faith. The first thing Jesus asked the disciples was, "Where is your faith?" 

Storms, whether in nature or occurring in our lives, can be transformative or destructive. No matter their intensity or duration, the outcome depends on how we react to them. 

If you are walking through a storm, hold your head high, and don't be afraid of the dark. At the end of a storm, there is a golden sky...because we can trust God and not be afraid; He is our strength, our song, and our salvation (Isaiah 12:2). 

God always has a purpose in allowing storms. He wanted to reveal to the disciples their lack of faith. He knew the difficult road that was ahead of them; therefore, He was preparing them for the challenges they would soon face. 

Like the disciples, we are in training for greater things to come, as well as those things to overcome. That requires faith to believe God when circumstances tell us to believe something else. 

When we walk through a storm and question if God cares, we can unequivocally know that He not only cares about every detail of our lives, He sees all and is listening to our every word. He is our shelter and strength, and His Spirit is always ready to help us in times of trouble (Psalm 34:17; 46:1). We can trust Him.

PRAYER:
Father God, thank You for sending Jesus Christ to earth to save me from my sins. Upon His resurrection, You sent the Holy Sprit to be the Advocate and Helper to all who ask. Therefore, I invite the Holy Spirit to fill me to overflowing. Teach me to trust and yield to Your leadership, truth, guidance, wisdom, and knowledge. In Jesus name, amen.

FOOTNOTE: Twenty years after my Dad's death, my sister-in-law revealed that two weeks before he died, her sweet mother led him to Christ. I will always be grateful for her obedience in sharing the Gospel (Matthew 28:19). Because of her faithfulness to Christ's command, I will see my Daddy again. 

Monday, May 14, 2018


SEVEN SNARES TO FAITH
Let us choose for ourselves what is right;
Let us know among ourselves what is good.
(Job 34:4 NIV)

Interstate interchanges can be confusing and daunting without proper navigation. Likewise, God wants to be our navigator, so that we can avoid seven snares (strongholds) that hinder, confuse, and misdirect us away from Him. 

The seven snares have a domino effect that divert us from God's truth and severely impact our choices and decisions. I refer to them as The Seven D's: Deception, Distraction, Doubt, Distrust, Disobedience, Denial, and Discouragement. 

As you know, a "D" on the grading scale is just one step above failure. And failure to thrive and survive is the enemy's goal for us.

These seven snares were birthed in the Garden of Eden when Satan approached Eve with a deception, "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 3:4-5). After engaging her in crafty conversation, he distracted her with the forbidden fruit's beauty.

Eve had a choice—to believe God, who is all truth, or to believe Satan, who bates, switches, and manipulates all truth, because he is the father of lies. Sadly, she made a bad decision and believed a lie. 

Deception and distraction created doubt and distrust of God, which led to disobedience. When confronted by God, Adam and Eve denied culpability and blamed the devil, each other, and God. Discouraged and laden with sin, they were cast from the Garden. For this reason, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem mankind from the hands of the enemy.


What is a snare? The dictionary defines snare as "a trap or a thing likely to lure or tempt someone into harm or error." Therefore, it is imperative to prayerfully and carefully weigh and examine all things, because not everyone and every thing is an epitome of truth or is legitimate (I John 4:1). So let us examine each snare that plays a diabolical part in establishing strongholds that birth unbelief and/or apostasy.

"Distraction" is diverting attention and focus, so that the reception of information is blocked or diminished. How did Satan distract Eve? He made her focus on the beauty of the fruit, so that she would ignore the truth. 

"Deception" is fraud, deceit, pretense, lying, and crookedness. The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). The enemy's clever manipulation of truth deceives not only the world but also God's people. Evil is called good and good is condemned as evil. Since Adam and Eve were deceived with clever persuasion and manipulation, then most certainly we can be deceived, if we do not ask God for discernment and wisdom. 

"Doubt" is defined as uncertainty, hesitation, suspicion, vacillation, and lack of conviction. A lack of conviction or belief in the truth and validity of God's Word will quickly open the door to doubt, which opposes God and His Word. However, God's Word tells us to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). For His ways and thoughts are far above ours. In all our ways we are to acknowledge Him, then He will give us a straight and clear path (Proverbs 3:6). 

Distrust is a feeling that you cannot trust or rely on someone. Adam and Eve believed a lie, which created distrust of God. On the other hand, trust is an unshakable and firm belief in the reliability and truth of a person and their word. Do we have an unshakable and firm belief in the reliability and truth of God's Word, which is forever settled in heaven? (Psalm 119:89). His Word is right and true (Proverbs 33:44). His Word is a trusted litmus test against worldviews that cleverly use untruths to deceive, manipulate, and cause distrust. Unless we know the Word of God, we will accept false narratives, which lead to disobedience.

"Disobedience" is failure to obey rules or someone in authority. God calls us to obey His Word, which is His authority. Refusal to obey is rebellion, which is the sin of witchcraft (I Samuel 15:33). Therefore, those who disobey God deny His authority and make themselves "god" over their life like Satan, who said, "I will make myself like the Most High"(Isaiah 14:14).

"Denial" is failure to acknowledge, believe, or accept truth. However, if we pray, seek God, read His Word, and listen for His direction, we will know the truth and not be easily deceived. 

"Discouragement" is defined as a loss of confidence or enthusiasm for something or someone. Are you waiting for prayers to be answered? Satan uses God's delays to discourage and create doubt in our minds, so that we stop praying. However, the antidote is to praise, pray, and pursue God even harder. 

God knows what lies ahead of us. That's why we are told to wait upon the Lord. For when we wait, our strength and faith is renewed, our trust is bolstered, and we do not grow weary, worried, and fearful (Isaiah 40:31). Thus we come to the question of how we know if we are entertaining the Seven D's?

  • Do we doubt God, or do we trust and obey His Word?
  • Have we checked our motives and given our     desires to God in prayer?
  • Do we pray before making a decision?
  • Does that decision or choice align with God's Word?
  • Do we have a peace about our decision, or are we feeling anxious and unsure?
  • Do willful desires, impulses, or greed influence our decisions and choices?
  • Are fears of loss, being wrong, or missing an opportunity motivating hasty decisions?

God's Word tells us that He has not given us a spirit of fear but He has given us a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). When God leads, we have peace to move forward.

Humans struggle with trust. However, we cannot have faith without trust, which believes and relies on the faithfulness and integrity of God's Word and His ability and desire to always lead, guide, instruct, protect, and provide. 

Trust is developed through a daily relationship with God, who is The Chief Architect of our lives. Before each person was born, He drafted a precise blueprint of a plan to be fulfilled (Jeremiah 1:5). Poor choices and disobedience can prevent that plan from being realized.

Having been seduced by the enemy's snares, I painfully learned the importance of prayerfully weighing all facts and seeking God's guidance before making any decision or choice. Fortunately, because of God's mercy, He corrects and guides us to all truth, if we seek His truth with our whole heart.

PRAYER:
FATHER, I confess making willful choices, because I didn't trust or believe You. Forgive me, for You are the Chief Architect of my life. I ask that You daily remind me to seek You first before making any decision, so that my decisions are not based on opinion, desire, wants, or needs, but on Your Word, Your will, Your divine guidance, and Your sovereign purposes for my life. In Jesus name, amen.