Monday, December 10, 2018

ROYAL ROBES DON'T MAKE A KING


For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, 
And the government shall be upon His shoulder, 
And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, 
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 ESV

Humans have the propensity to judge by outward appearances. We clearly see that in Israel's rejection of the LORD and their demand for an earthly king. God then directed the prophet Samuel to go to the family of Jesse and select God's choice for a king. 

Samuel saw the first son and thought certainly this is God's anointed King. But the Lord told Samuel, "Don't look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart," because outward appearances deceive (I Samuel 16:7).

Samuel looked at seven sons and rejected each one. He then asked if Jesse had more sons. David was fetched from the fields and the Lord said, "Go ahead—anoint him. He is the one." Samuel anointed the young boy, and the Lord's Spirit came over him and remained with him (I Samuel 16:8-12).

Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Isaiah told of the birth of Christ, a King, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, who would come into the world. However, the Jews perceived that their king would arrive as a great military leader, and not under the dark of night, born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and tucked inside a lowly trough where animals ate. Only the angels, a few shepherds, and the Three Wise Men would herald His arrival. 

Jesus grew and thrived, living a humble and uneventful life among His people for His first thirty years. Although His earthy parents raised Him, He "grew up before [God the Father] like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. 
He— 
 *  had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him 
* Nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. 
* He was despised and rejected by mankind, 
* A man of suffering and familiar with pain. 
* Like one from whom people hid their faces, 
* He was despised 
* And we held Him in low esteem" (Isaiah 53:1-3). 
·  Although He was in the world that was made through Him, the world did not know Him. He came to His own (the Jews), and His own people did not receive Him (John 1:10-11)

After Jesus' baptism and temptation in the desert, He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, and went into the synagogue to read from the scroll:
       "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Jesus as He said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." They responded, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" The people in the synagogue became enraged and tried to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-30 NIV).

Jesus lived when the Roman Empire ruled. There were major tensions among Jews regarding Roman policies and the high priests. They were hoping for a messianic redeemer, a great military leader, and man of power, who would restore Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. They did not recognize Jesus as their long-awaited Redeemer, because they could not see past the simple, ordinary carpenter and son of Joseph.

The Jews viewed Jesus as just a prophet, teacher, and a wannabe king. He did not wear royal robes or a crown upon His head. His crown would be a crown of thorns driven into His skull and a purple robe draped over His shoulders to mock His Kingship. His death and resurrection would forever defeat Satan, who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus' shed blood would give us life, abundantly (John 10:10). 

Jesus left us a warning that in the last days, deceivers will come in His name to lead many astray. We will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Nation (people) will rise against nation and kingdom (countries and states) against kingdom. (We see civil unrest across the world.) There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. Believers will be persecuted and hated by all nations (people) for His name's sake. Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. False prophets will lead many astray. Lawlessness will increase and love will grow cold. (Hate and vitriol have escalated to unprecedented levels.) Therefore, we are cautioned to stay awake, for we do not know the day our Lord is coming (Matthew 24:4-42 ESV).

The Apostle Paul prophesied that in the last days, a "man of sin," a liar and deceiver will come on the scene, whom Satan will enhance his natural abilities with supernatural power to confuse and ensnare people (2 Thessalonians 2). People will see him as the savior of the world and a great religious leader. He will appear as a lamb but will speak like a dragon. He will imitate Jesus Christ, but he will be empowered by Satan (Revelation 13:11).

There is an old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." We might wonder how the Jews could hear Jesus' teachings and witness His miracles and not recognize Him as their Redeemer, the Promised One. But how many people today are deceived by a secular philosophy and lifestyle and reject God's Word? We are witnessing an escalating hostility and hatred towards Christians and Jews. The Bill of Rights, which was written to afford liberty to all, is continually being adulterated to take away rights and protections from Christians. 

People are looking for a new "savior" who will bring change, unification, and world peace. Unfortunately, they are not looking to The Prince of Peace and true Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

Jesus warned, "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36 NIV). Therefore, stay awake (spiritually), for you do not know what day our Lord is coming (Matthew 24:42).

So, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, we must remember that He defeated the Prince of Darkness, and He will return as a conquering King, wearing a royal robe, and on His thigh there is a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:11).

PRAYER: FATHER, I thank you for Your Son, who came to earth as a servant and suffered an undeserved death in my place. Give me discernment for these days. Help me to pray, to stay spiritually awake, to daily seek Your Word, to place You first above all else, and to live a consecrated life in You, so that I will not miss the Lord's coming. In Jesus name, amen.



Monday, December 3, 2018

TRUST GOD



"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." 
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NKJV)

The Oxford American Dictionary defines "trust" as having a good relationship built on what I refer to the following as "The Seven Building Blocks of Trust." Trust is paramount to believing and having faith; therefore, I have defined each building block, according to Scripture:
  1. Confidence is complete faith and trust in a person or something. "And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask,  we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:13-14 ESV). 
  2. Belief is an opinion, a view, a conviction, and a way of thinking. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel," because "all things are possible for one who believes" (Mark 1:15; 9:23 ESV).
  3. Faith is complete trust and confidence in someone or something. Faith in God comes through revelation of His Word. "For in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:17). In other words, faith has all assurance and trusts God.
  4. Assurance is confidence in the word, promise, pledge, vow, guarantee, and commitment made by another. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). Faith believes God and His Word for what is hoped and prayed for—before there is manifestation of that request.
  5. Certainty is a confidence, conviction, and assurance in the integrity and honesty of a person. However, "it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man" (Psalm 118:8).
  6. Conviction is an unmovable belief, faith, sureness, confidence, and reliance in something or someone. "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16). We are either convicted by the truth and reliability of God's Word and we live by it, or we do not hold to that conviction. There is no middle ground—no fence riding with God. 
  7. Reliance  is dependence and trust in someone or something. Whom do we rely on? Do we rely or trust in ourselves, the economy, our job, our spouse, etc., or do we rely on God?

I have learned firsthand the importance of trusting God. When I was a new Christian, I had many challenges as a divorced mother of a young son. However, I believed that God would take care of us, no matter the circumstances. The more I trusted God, the more He graced our lives with big and small miracles. I had complete confidence that He would take care of our needs, and He always did.

As time passed, I began praying that God would send a godly man to be my husband. While praying one day, I thought I heard God speak into my spirit that He would be sending him "soon."

"Soon" turned into months and then years. I became angry with God and began dating a non-believer. I did not know God's Word that instructs us, "Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing...(Hebrew 3:8 ESV). I had hardened my heart and no longer trusted God, because I erroneously believed He had lied to me.

Had I known God's Word, I would have known "God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19-21 ESV). I did not know that "for all the promises of God are "Yes" in Christ. And so through Him, our "Amen" is spoken to the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 1:20). Instead of rebelling, I should have said, "Amen. I trust You and Your timing."

Interestingly, the Hebrew definition of "amen" means truth, certainty, and is used adverbially as an expression of agreement, consent, belief, and affirmation. Several months later, I became convicted of my rebellion, repented, and broke off the relationship. I then re-surrendered my heart to the lordship of Jesus Christ. A few short months later, God brought a godly man into our lives who would become my husband of 39 years and counting.

God is a good and faithful Father who loves His children. However, as His children, we must learn to first and foremost trust Him and not lean on our own understanding, because He tells us, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

God will do things in His time and not in our time. "For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay" (Habakkuk 2:3)God has an appointed time for everything and we cannot change or rush it. He will do what He has promised—no sooner and no later.

Trusting God is the key element to faith. For without trust, it is impossible to believe God. And without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Any close relationship formed with another person, has been developed over time, bringing about a level of trust. So that truth begs the question, "How can we trust God, if we have not formed a relationship with Him?"

How do we form a relationship with God of the universe? We start with prayer (talking with Him as we would talk with a friend) (John 15:15). The next step is reading and studying His Word, because "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training..." (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV)

God assures us that if we seek Him, we will find Him, when we seek Him with all our heart, He will be found by us (Jeremiah 29:13). But why does He tell us to seek Him with all our heart? The "heart" is mentioned 963 times in the King James Version; therefore, God places much emphasis on the heart. Jesus said that where our treasure is there our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21). 

What kind of treasures are we storing in our hearts? Hopefully they are the Words of God.

PRAYER: LORD, I ask that You give me a hunger for Your Word, so that I may know You and trust You with all my heart. I want to be a person of faith who does not doubt, but believes and trust You to fulfill Your promises and to perform Your Word in my life as I surrender all to You. In Jesus name, amen.







  

Monday, November 26, 2018

A TIMELY INCONVENIENCE



Have you ever been annoyed by an inconvenience? Recently, I believed I was being unnecessarily inconvenienced. Although exasperated, I was making every effort to maintain a calm demeanor before calling the cable company. "For whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city" (Proverbs 16:32 ESV).


Unable to access emails on one of my iPhone email accounts, I was thoroughly frustrated. Although not a problem in the past, I was now getting a message instructing me to set up a new account, despite the fact that I already had an account. I wanted to make sure that nothing nefarious was happening.

I called and talked with a pleasant lady who informed me that their app had been updated; therefore, it was necessary to follow the prompts, so that everything could be corrected. With renewed hope that the problem would be quickly resolved, I thanked her and hung up. 

After following each prompt, the program updated, and then a message appeared, "Unable to access account." Really? Really?! Mail was there, because I had just viewed it on my computer, so why not on my iPhone?

Frustrated, I called again and explained my situation to a very sweet girl. She apologized for my trouble and said she would need to place me on hold to retrieve some information. A minute later, she returned to the phone and apologized once again, explaining that she needed to do a little more research and then asked permission to place me on hold again. I assured her that waiting was not a problem. "With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love..." (Ephesians 4:2 ESV).

As I waited, the Holy Spirit spoke into my heart, "You did not add your new password to your phone." I wondered why God had not shared that information with me before I called. 

Feeling very foolish, I hurriedly updated the password and voila! The mail started coming into my phone.

The representative came back on the phone, and was in the midst of apologizing once again, when I giggled and said, "No need to apologize. I owe you an apology. The problem was me! I had changed my password but neglected to update my iPhone. Realizing my mistake, I added the new password while waiting for you, and all my emails downloaded." Chuckling again, I added, "I guess that's what happens when you're 72. You don't always remember everything" She laughed and said, "I can't remember things, and I'm 24." 

She then told me that her day had started out badly when she was late for work. Then when she gathered information to sort out my problem, she was unsure how to present the information to me. Since she had been late, she did not want to ask her supervisor. She said, "Your joy, laughter, and kindness have made my day. You live up to your name, Joy." 

Kindness, patience, and an apology are simple gifts to offer to others. God knew her need for compassion, understanding, and a little humor to set her on the right footing for the day. He calls us to bear with one another in love with all humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2 ESV). When the phone call ended, I literally said aloud, "That was so sweet, Lord." Again in my spirit, I heard Him say, "That was a timely inconvenience and I want you to write about it."

The word "timely" means something that is well-timed, appropriate, and expedient. "Inconvenience" means anything that causes trouble, trials, problems, difficulties, stress, irritation, or discomfort. Used together, the words may sound like an oxymoron, but our omniscient God will plan well-timed inconveniences to accomplish His divine purposes and show His sovereignty. 

How many times have we been delayed or inconvenienced in traffic or have had to wait an excessive amount of time in line at a place of business? God just might have delayed us to be a blessing to someone needing a kind word or a helping hand. Maybe that inconvenience was for an attitude adjustment. Or possibly that inconvenient delay saved our life­­.

Investment banker, George Keith, had a meeting 
scheduled on September 11, 2001, for 9 a.m. on the 79th floor of the World Trade Center. However, while driving through Central Park the night before, the transmission of his new BMW got stuck in first gear. The breakdown forced him to cancel his morning meeting. He would realize on the morning of the 11th that what he had perceived as an irritating and inconvenient problem with his new vehicle was in actuality a life-saving blessing in disguise. 

Monica O'Leary thought it more than an inconvenience when she was laid off from her job at a technology company with offices on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center. When she said goodbye to her colleagues on September 10, 2001, she had no way of knowing that the very next day all of her business associates would die in the deadliest attack in American history.

Jesus had been required to lay aside His divine privileges and take on the form of a human. Although he knew that His mission would be messy and inconvenient, He also knew that through His obedience, blessings, and eternal life would come to all who will believe and receive Him. 

If we are His obedient, teachable, and available servants, then we will be required to experience timely inconveniences, which provide great opportunities to grow in faith and become mature Christians. Therefore, as God's people whom He dearly loves, we are to take every opportunity to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

We are encouraged to "do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count other more significant than ourselves. Let each look not only on their interest, but look to the interests of others. Therefore, we are to have the mind of Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:2-8 ESV)

Are we willing to pour ourselves out to make room for those inconvenient moments that God uses to shape, mold, and guide us in becoming a blessing to others? So the next time circumstances delay or frustrate, it just might be one of God's orchestrated, timely inconveniences growing our faith and adjusting our attitude. 

PRAYER: FATHER, forgive me if I have had a bad attitude in those times of inconvenience. Help me to recognize that Your sovereign hand moves in mysterious ways and that You use very timely inconveniences to make a difference in my life and the lives of others. Help me to always be faithful to obey You, to be available when You call, to have the right attitude, and to always be teachable, so that I can learn from You and be a blessing to others. In Jesus name, amen.




Monday, November 19, 2018

GIVE THANKS


I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession 
and thankgiving be made for all people—
for kings and all those in authority, 
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives
 in all godliness and holiness
(I Timothy 2:1-2)


Thanksgiving is a time when we gather together with family and friends and enjoy a bountiful feast of our favorite holiday foods. However, how many people in the United States know or care about the story behind the Thanksgiving holiday and why that day was chosen to acknowledge God as the beneficent giver of blessings?

The American tradition of giving thanks began when 101 Christian men, women, and children made the perilous sixty-six-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean, seeking religious freedom. Only fifty-one survived that harsh first year and bowed their heads in thanks, as they shared their harvest table with Indians who had taught them how to fish and grow corn. Interestingly, it was President Abraham Lincoln, who, in the middle of the Civil War of 1863, wrote a proclamation to establish a day to give thanks to the Lord for America's many blessings:

The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come; others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensitive to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do, therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. In testimony, whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Thanksgiving is not the only time of the year that we are to give thanks. Lincoln understood the importance of giving thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus. (Thessalonians 5:18)

Giving thanks acknowledges our trust and faith in our Creator. We might not understand many things, but regardless of our circumstances, we are to praise, trust, and thank God. For He tells us to praise Him no matter what happens and constantly speak of His goodness, grace, and kindness as we exalt His Holy name (Psalm 34:1-3).

The world is a seething cauldron of hatred, anger, threats, and fighting, yet we have God whom we can turn to and be thankful for all that He provides and does for us. If nothing else, we can be most thankful that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the propitiation for our sins. Because of His great sacrifice and our acknowledgement of Him as Lord, we have a place reserved in heaven with Him. That alone gives reason to be exceedingly grateful.

Three years into my journey as a Christian, I learned the importance of thanking God. It was 1974. I was a divorced, single mother of a three-year-old son, caught up in a bad recession. Multiple companies were firing large numbers of employees. Rumors swirled that our company planned to fire between three and four-hundred people, but God's peace was with me as I trusted and praised Him.

The day before Thanksgiving, I was called into the boss's office, where he and another boss reluctantly informed me that the company viewed my job as superfluous; therefore, my position in the art department had been cut. They both exchanged looks as I assured them that God had a plan for my life and that everything would be fine. Of course, I did not have one clue what that plan was, but I trusted God.

God often uses people to reveal His plans. I had a very good friend who urged me to return to college and finish my degree. My confidence level had been at an all-time low after having been in a bad marriage. Yet I chose to believe that I could do all things through Christ who was my strength. (Philippians 4:13)

I pursued the possibility of returning to college and within a very short time, God made a way. My tuition and books were paid through a scholarship fund, and I found a job on campus through the college's work-study program, which allowed me to work around my classes. The Lord took care of every detail, including daycare.

Psalm 37:25 says, "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." My young son and I always had food to eat, and I was able to pay my bills each month. God proved then and continues to prove that His provision is limitless. His storehouse never runs empty to those who have surrendered their life to Him.

Despite losing my job, I praised God for His faithfulness, and He met my every need. The puritans had lost half of their community, yet they gave thanks to almighty God, and He provided the means to sustain life. President Lincoln was in the middle of a Civil War, yet he called a nation to give thanks for God's blessings and eventually led the Union to victory, ending slavery in America.

Often what appears to be misfortune, trouble, or adversity, is actually a vehicle for blessing. Many had viewed my firing as a disaster, but it was one of the greatest blessings in my life. It enabled me to complete my degree with honors and eventually teach college.

God wants to do great and marvelous things in our lives. However, for us to receive, we must trust, believe, and give Him thanks before we receive, because His thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Thus, He wants us to trust in His goodness and not lean on our own understanding, for He looks for those who will believe and trust Him to meet their needs.

Let us, at a time of such great uncertainty in our world, be faithful to pray daily for this nation, our leaders, our government, and the world. May we always, and not just on Thanksgiving, be grateful for God's many blessings and bounty provided to us and to America. And may we place our hope and trust in Him, who is able to spill abundance into our lives from His great storehouse.

PRAYER:  FATHER, thank you for Your many blessings. You are a faithful Father who knows my every need and provides for them. I pray blessings and protection over my family, friends, and this Nation's leadership. I pray that the people of America, who have enjoyed blessings and freedom, will not take them for granted but will recognize the favor that has come from Your hand. May hearts be turned to You this Thanksgiving Day and ever day with gratitude for all that You provide. In Jesus name, amen. 

Monday, November 12, 2018


WHO IS GOD?


Through Him all things were made.
Without Him nothing was made that has been made.
 John 1:3 NIV

People have asked, "Why should I pray to a God I can't see? To answer that question, we must first answer, "Who is God?" 

Many people have a skewed perception of God. Therefore, it is important to not only answer that question, "Who is God?" but to have it settled within our hearts that He loves us deeply and created us for relationship with Him.  

Before I became a Christian, I believed that God was an unreachable disciplinarian, ready to punish me if I did not measure up to His expectations and standards. Thus, I struggled in vain to be perfect. I did not know that He is the loving, forgiving, nurturing FATHER, who sees us as His precious children, whom He lovingly knit each person in His image, in our mother's womb (Psalm 139:13-16)

God is the Sovereign Creator. Sovereign is defined as supreme, absolute, unlimited, unrestricted, boundless, ultimate, total, unconditional; ruling; and royal. "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will, they existed and were created" (Revelation 4:11 NASB)"In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land"(Psalm 95:4-5 NIV; Romans 1:20) "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17 NIV)

God is infinite. He is self-existing without origin. He is pre-eminent and superior. He says, "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come" (Isaiah 46:10 NIV).

God is omnipresent (present everywhere). "Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:23-24 ESV). God is accessible to us 24/7.

God is omnipotent (all-powerful). He is Creator of the universe. He the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13)God is abundant in power and His understanding is beyond measure (Psalm 147:5). For with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37 NKJV).

God is omniscient (all-knowing). He knows and cares about the smallest detail of our lives and everything that is around us. He even knows when a sparrow falls or when we lose a single hair (Matthew 10:29-30). Not only does God know everything that will occur until the end of history, He knows our every thought before we speak it (Psalm 139:4)

God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 ESV) We can trust God to keep His 5,467 promises found in His Word. He is absolutely trustworthy (Hebrews 6:13-18).

God is immutable and never-changing (Malachi 3:6). We can depend on Him and His Word. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17 ESV). He is light. In Him there is no darkness (1 John 1:15). We can trust in His Word.

God is all wisdom. The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable" (Isaiah 40:28). For the LORD gives wisdom and knowledge, and understanding comes from His mouth (Proverbs 2:6)Blessed are those who find wisdom and get understanding (Proverbs 3:13). If we lack wisdom, we are to ask God, who gives generously to all who ask (Proverbs 8:11-12).


God is faithful. "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is [His] faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23; 2 Corinthians 120 NKJV). For all the promises of God in Him are "Yes," and in Him "Amen," to the glory of God through us (2 Corinthians 1:20)

God is good. Jesus said, "No one is good, except God alone (Luke 18:19). Therefore, there is no evil in Him, nor can He commit evil. His intentions and motivations are always good and pure. The LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:5)

God is kind. "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6-7).

God is just and holy. The LORD loves justice and hates robbery and wrong (Isaiah 61:8). He administers His laws fairly without favoritism and bias. "Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?" (Exodus 15:11)

God is merciful. The Lord hears our cries for mercy and accepts our prayers (Psalm 6:9). For He says, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Exodus 33:19). His mercies are new every morning. Mercy is God withholding a just punishment when we repent.

God is love. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. He demonstrated
His love for us when He sent His only Son into the world, so that we might have life through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us first and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:8-10)

God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15). His greatest desire is that we love Him and bathe in His love and presence.

We can freely approach God in prayer as children approach their parents and make their requests known. Prayer is conversation that builds an intimate relationship with God, thereby enabling us to hear His voice within our spirit. Prayer teaches us accountability as we learn God's will. Prayer is intercession and our spiritual weapon of warfare that defeats the enemy and moves mountains. For that reason, we are not to be anxious, but in everything by prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving, we are to make our requests known to Him. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6)

PRAYER: FATHER GOD, thank You for always receiving and embracing me with love. Help me to trust in Your sovereign will for my life and to know that You answer prayers in Your time. Help me to continually seek Your face, wisdom, and discernment. Make me aware of all forms of deception and guide me in making wise decisions. Thank you for giving attention to my every thought, concern, and need. I place my life in Your loving hands. In Jesus name, amen. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

SEASONS



I enjoy the beauty of the Tennessee mountains set aglow with their stunning hues of orange, red, and gold, exclaiming fall's last hurrah before winter. However, in our immediate area, the unseasonably warm weather and rain have confounded nature's cycle, creating faded and dried leaves, still clinging to their branches.

While considering the four seasons, I realized there is a correlation between seasonal changes and the spiritual seasons that we experience. "For everything there is a season" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time to be born and a time to die. Between  those two events are cyclical spiritual seasons.

SPRING is a time of renewal and rebirth as we watch the earth surrender new growth at winter's end. It is also the time when farmers go into their fields to plow and plant. 

Plowing is important, because it prepares the soil to receive new life, and it breaks up roots, which prevent weeds from growing and choking out the new crop. Equally, Christians must prepare the soil of their hearts by uprooting all destructive roots of bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, and anger, so that a good crop of blessings can come forth.

Spring rains will come at inconvenient times, requiring farmers to work long hours throughout the night as they seed their ground. This is powerful imagery for those seasons of life when unexpected challenges prevent us from moving forward with our plans. But like the farmer, we cannot allow those interruptions to dissuade and sidetrack us. Instead, God calls us to persevere in prayer and seek His plans and purposes, for He is our shelter and strength and is always ready to help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Spring's rebirth and renewal are also a part of God's kingdom. We see this call for "rebirth" in Scripture, when the Pharisee, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, asked Jesus, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:4-8 KJV).

We entered the world as human flesh with an Adamic, unredeemed nature. Therefore, to be born spiritually, we must confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead and we will be save (Romans 10:9 NKJV). However, that is only the beginning.

John the Baptist said, "I have baptized you with water, but [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). For it is the Holy Spirit that gives wisdom, direction, discernment, comfort, peace, knowledge, and all things pertaining to God. Jesus received the Holy Spirit before He began His ministry and He tells Christ followers to follow His example by asking the Holy Spirit to indwell them.

SUMMER is referred to as the growing season when farmers plant their summer crops. Spiritually, the summers of our lives are those times of spiritual growth, as God reveals Himself to us through His Word and prayer. As we pray, He calls us to stop, refresh, and quiet our spirits in the refreshing of His Holy Spirit. "The Lord is [our] Shepherd. [We] lack nothing. He makes [us] lie down in green pastures. He leads [us] beside quiet waters. He refreshes [our] soul" (Psalm 23:1-3). He promises, "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint" (Jeremiah 31:25 NIV).

What does it mean to be refreshed? Refreshing follows repentance of disobedience, rebellion, unbelief, sin, and anything that opposes God and robs us of peace and joy. As we turn to the Lord, sins are wiped out and refreshing comes from Him. (Acts 3:19)

The antonym for refresh is to be weary. God wants to take us from weariness to His place of refreshing, where He strengthens, energizes, revives, restores, and awakens us to His plans and purposes. However, that spiritual strengthening and refreshing can only begin with prayerful communication with God.

FALL represents change, preparation, and harvest. The changing leaves tell us winter is near. Interestingly, leaves die and fall so that new buds may form on their branches, bringing forth life in the spring. 

Leaves have a lesson for us. We often cling to what is comfortable and safe, because we are afraid of change or of losing something that is important to us. As with dead leaves that eventually release from their branches, if we refuse to release those dead and weighty things that hold us back, we will never experience new growth and blessings. 

A harvest does not happen overnight. Like the farmer who, with great effort, prepares his land for planting, we must extend great effort in preparing the good soil of our hearts with patience, faith, endurance, and commitment to prayer and reading God's Word. In that resolve, there must be a removal of "weeds"—old fears, worries, false beliefs, unhealthy attitudes, and choices that prevent God's bountiful harvest from being produced in our lives.

WINTER is a time of death and dormancy when the earth rests. There are times in our walk with God that we come to a place of inactivity, which can lead to a disconnect from Him, if we are not careful.

The farmer is the perfect example of one who understands harvest and dormancy, because once the farmer has harvested his crops, the ground rests and remains cold and dormant until spring. Though the ground is resting, the farmer remains busy maintaining his equipment and making necessary repairs to insure everything is operational for springtime planting. His very livelihood and health of the farm depend on the proper care and maintenance of the farm equipment. 

Likewise, our spiritual health and potential harvest are dependent upon our continual communication with God, studying His Word, and fellowshipping with fellow believers in a church environment. Without fastidious preparation and continual maintenance of the spirit and soul, we can lose the harvest as we drift away from God. And without preparation, we will not be ready for storms that will surely come.

There was a time when I felt disconnected from God, so I asked, "Father, why have I not heard from You?" He gently spoke into my spirit, "Because you do not spend time with Me." Regrettably, I had allowed the cares and business of everyday life to rob quality time with Him. Thankfully, if we seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). For when we seek His kingdom first and His righteousness, all our needs will be met (Matthew 6:33).

Just as the earth goes through seasonal changes each year, we are continually transitioning between spiritual seasons, "until we reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13-15 NIV).

PRAYER: LORD, help me to appreciate each season as a time for spiritual growth and spending time with You. I ask that You fill me with the Holy Spirit, Who provides wisdom and gives direction, discernment, comfort, peace, knowledge, and all things pertaining to You. In Jesus name, amen.