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.


Monday, May 7, 2018

TURN LEMONS INTO LEMONADE

You have probably heard the statement, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." I am always amazed how God takes life's challenges and mistakes and brings good from them...if we TRUST and HEED the Holy Spirit's guidance. So, if things appear hopeless, don't despair or give up. Instead, seek God for His help and believe that He hears and answers, which takes us to the following story.

In March, I was making my mother-in-law's favorite from-scratch, double chocolate cake for her 95th birthday. However, when I took it from the oven, I was shocked to see that it looked more like a brownie than a cake. Reasoning that I had not properly mixed the powdered buttermilk, I stood with eyes transfixed on the grand failure, bemoaning the very thought of tossing out the ingredient-laden cake. That old nemesis, perfectionism, shouted, "You really messed up!"

Suddenly a gentle thought came, "Ask Me." I clearly didn't have enough ingredients to make another cake and there was no time to buy more, so I asked God how I could redeem the colossal failure before me. He answered, "Make truffles." There is nothing that our extraordinary God can't or won't do to help us! What is important to us is always important to Him.

I was so excited that I shouted, "Hallelujah! That's it!" I knew I had a package of cream cheese, so I added powdered sugar and Hersey's Chocolate Syrup to the cream cheese and pulsed it in the food processor. Setting that mixture aside, I then pulsed the chocolate "cake." Next, I took half of the cream cheese mixture and half of the cake and added both to the processor. That's when everything went awry. 

I turned on the processor and heard a horrible noise. Yes, you guessed it. The thick load was too much for the 30 plus year-old processor. The main shaft completely broke from it mounting. Suddenly I was looking at an even bigger problem. What was I to do? Frustration and perfectionism were joining forces to defeat me. Thoughts of resignation were whirling as I re-considered throwing it all in the trash and buying a ready-made cake.

You might recall from a previous blog, entitled SURRENDERED, that I discussed the ills of perfectionism, which can control and debilitate a life, because perfectionism never allows for mistakes. So far, my day had not been going the way I had planned. It seemed that everything I was doing was only leading to failure. "There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless, the Lord's  counsel — that will stand" (Proverbs 19:21).

Again, I heard the counsel of the Holy Spirit in my spirit, "You asked Me to help you overcome perfectionism." Oh my! We have to be ready to expect anything when we ask God to help us, because often He will take us around the mountain and through the valley to see our need to be completely dependent on Him.

Then I heard in my spirit, "Hand mix it." What a novel idea. I depend on my appliances and kitchen utensils so much, that it rarely occurs to me to do things the old fashioned way.

I decided not to give up and forged ahead. After kneading and blending the thick mixture, my next step was to roll the "dough" into six-dozen—72 rolled balls. Finally they were ready for dipping into rich dark chocolate, which I had on hand. My kitchen quickly became a one-person assembly line.

Each truffle was dipped and placed on wax paper that covered both counters. After the chocolate coating set, I added the finishing decorative touches to each piece, and then stood back to admire the fruits of my labor. My one regret was failing to take pictures of the process and the finished product, because family and friends would later tell me that the truffles looked store-bought.

With patience, persistence, and God's guidance, what I had thought was a complete "disaster" had become beautiful, creamy, chocolate truffles that were a hit at Mom's birthday party. And the best part of the "mistake" was that she was delighted to have a generous supply of chocolate truffles to enjoy. All things had worked together for an even greater good.

Never give up! Never give in! God might have to take us through the valley to get us to where we need to be, but if we trust Him, we will emerge as victors!

God doesn't expect us to be perfect. He alone is perfect. However, He does expect us to make every effort to be all that He calls us to be each day, knowing that we will make mistakes along the way. And if we get too far off track, He just might take us around a mountain or two...or more...until we learn to depend on Him in every area, because He not only cares about our lives, He cares about everything we care about. Therefore, we must trust Him with our whole heart and not lean on our own understanding, because our understanding is limited and shortsighted.

When I resisted the temptation to throw the cake into the trash, God led me step-by-step in redeeming what had appeared hopeless and beyond saving. Are you struggling with a situation that seems hopeless and unredeemable? 

God is truly our Redeemer and Restorer in all things. Thank goodness that our struggles and challenges are never hopeless and beyond saving, because if we allow, He will guide us step-by-step in redeeming what appears hopeless.  

God understands that not only are we a work in progress, but we live in a fallen and broken world. Therefore, regardless of the situation, we must never give up; never give in to despair; and never settle for less. For when we submit our ways to Him, He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). We only have to cooperate with Him and believe that with His help, we can turn lemons into lemonade...or a failed chocolate cake into decadent chocolate truffles.

PRAYER: 
FATHER, Your Word tells me that though I suffer temporary trials, You allow them to prove and strengthen my faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold that is purified by fire (1 Peter 1:6-7). Help me to never give up or give in to discouragement or defeat, but to trust and listen for Your voice that leads and guides me to a stronger, more resilient faith in You. In Jesus name, amen.