Monday, July 8, 2019

THE OLD PERCOLATOR


Recently, we spent a week in Missouri to prepare my mother-in-law’s belongings for auction. It was a daunting task as Michael and I worked tirelessly every day, from early morning into late at night. My job was to take everything that was brought to me and clean, categorize, and organize the items into flat boxes. 

During that process, my husband showed me an old, electric percolator that he was about to trash. I understood his reasoning. Most people want a quick cup of hot coffee at the touch of a button. Thus, the Keurig has become a fixture in many homes. But there was something about that dirty coffee pot that intrigued me. I could see the stainless trying to shine through its dull exterior. As I gently cleaned and polished it, the beauty of the stainless-steel began to gleam brightly, and when I finished, it looked like I had just purchased it. I filled it with water, plugged it in, and it worked perfectly.

I see myself like that old percolator. I might be viewed as being elderly, but I still have much to offer, despite the fact that I am far beyond 65. Unfortunately, the moniker, “elderly,” denotes someone who is feeble and unable to care for themselves. Fortunately, today’s push for fitness has helped seniors and the "elderly” stay fit, vibrant, and active. Despite this, many under the age of 40 have a disturbing perception of those over 40. 

I recently viewed a video of a study done with young men and women who were between the ages of 19 and 29. They were asked what they considered old and how they viewed the elderly. All of them said that “old” was between 40 and 50, and beyond 50 was “elderly.” They were then asked to visually show how an old person might cross the street, exercise, perform household duties, etc. It was both laughable and sad to see how these young people portrayed the aging. 

Next, the young participants were assigned an “elderly” person. The pairs were to teach each other an activity that neither had done before. The young partners were shocked to see that those in their 60’s and 70’s could keep us with them. At the conclusion of the testing, the youth stated that they had readjusted their thinking about what is "old" and "elderly."  

Today’s youth have access to technology that did not exist for many seniors. Therefore, many of the Centennials born since 1996; the Millennials, born between 1977-1995; and Generation X, born between 1965-1976, view themselves as smarter, wiser, and savvier. Sadly, they see little value in seeking the wisdom and advice of senior citizens, who if asked, could offer perspectives, otherwise not considered. 

Many who were born in the sixties, seventies, and eighties are unaware of the fact that until 1962, when the Supreme Court banned praying and reading the Bible in school, those who are considered senior citizens or elderly, lived in a world that was all about patriotism, God, and flag. With hand proudly held over heart, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited each morning in school, which was then followed by the teacher reading a Bible verse. Awards were given only to those who earned them. They studied hard, had chores, and had manners. They respected and honored their parents, and if they didn’t, there was swift, corporal punishment. Most families attended church and divorce was rare. They felt safe in their homes, so doors were rarely locked. They felt safe on the streets and played hide-and-seek late at night. Parents set curfews that were honored. When not in school, they were enjoying outdoor activities,  regardless of the weather. Parents and children ate together and played together. There were no smartphones to distract both parents and children from having meaningful conversations. They respected their elders, those in authority, and those in government, because their leaders had integrity and were not self-serving. 

Interestingly, mass shootings began in the early sixties shortly after prayer was removed from schools. Sadly, many underestimate the life-changing power of prayer.

To show how far America has departed from its Judeo-Christian heritage, the majority party in the House of Representatives has deleted God from as many congressional proceedings as possible, including the swearing in of witnesses, as evidenced on February 28, 2019, when a representative who led the swearing-in oath for the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Rights & Liberties, purposefully omitted, "so help me God." When another representative challenged that omission, the representative said, "I don’t think it is necessary and I don’t want to exert my will over other people."  (Viewed on C-SPAN).
                                                                        
God gives warning, “To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed, and they cannot listen. Behold, the Word of the LORD has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it” (Jeremiah 6:10). “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). “But blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12).

America’s younger generations need to understand that the freedoms they enjoy are being threatened. If this nation is to get back on track, there needs to be a pursuit of the Judeo-Christian values that built “one nation under God.”  It would behoove the younger generations to heed the words of the older generations who fought to protect and defend the United States and its interests against communism, socialism, and tyranny. Sadly, like the coffee pot wrongly assessed to be past its usefulness, senior citizens are considered “a drain on society” and not an asset.

The elderly carry within them a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and experience that should be embraced by generations that follow. That is why God’s Word instructs the young to submit themselves to their elders (I Peter 5:5). Most importantly, His Word holds an immense reservoir of truths that guide and instruct us in navigating this world and life. 

If today’s youth want a better world, they need to reflect on America’s history—one not redacted from textbooks—and seek knowledge from those who helped build this nation, who were a part of its history, and who understand the importance of living life according to God’s Word. 

Like that old percolator that had lost its luster, the elderly’s once youthful shine is now dulled with wrinkles and sagging skin. Yet inside, they are still percolating and praying for the America they were raised to love, defend, and support under the righteous banner of God and its unparalleled Constitution.

PRAYER: FATHER, this great nation once honored and sought You for direction. Its rich history and heritage have been preserved and recorded for all generations, lest they forget that You bless those who observe Your testimonies and seek You with all their heart (Psalm 119:2)I pray You would touch the hearts of all generations to appreciate the wisdom, knowledge, and experiences of their elders and the rich legacies they leave behind. Give our young people eyes to see and hearts to understand that their future depends on whether or not they seek wisdom and guidance through Your Word and prayer. For You say, “I love those who love Me, and those who seek me diligently will find Me” (Proverbs 8:17).  In Jesus’ name, amen.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

UNEXPECTED ANSWERS


Have you prayed for an answer, but the answer has not yet arrived? Will you recognize the answer when it comes? 

The story of Peter’s supernatural rescue from prison gives us a glimpse into the heart of God and how His ways and thoughts are so much higher than our ways and thoughts. He answers prayer, but not always according to our timing and expectations.

We learn in Acts 12 that Peter was arrested and delivered to four squads of soldiers. Typically, a squad included eight soldiers. So, it took thirty-two soldiers to guard one non-violent man. Meanwhile, the Church was earnestly praying for Peter’s release.

Peter was bound with two chains and asleep between two soldiers with sentries posted at the door of the prison. An angel of the Lord stood next to Peter, struck him on the side, and woke him saying, “Get up quickly.” His chains fell off and the angel ordered him to dress, wrap a cloak around himself, and follow him past the two guards. As they approached an iron gate, it opened of its own accord and they went out along a street, and the angel left. 

Peter quickly went to the house of Mary, the mother of John where they were all gathered together praying for Peter. When he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. She recognized Peter’s voice and instead of opening the door ran to tell the others that Peter was at the door. They responded, “You are out of your mind.” Despite her insistence that Peter was at the door, they argued, “It is his angel!” Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking on the door. When they finally opened the door, they were shocked to see him standing before them. 

How often do we pray and either we do not fully expect our prayer to be answered, or we have our own ideas of how that prayer should be answered? So, when the answer comes, we, like those who prayed for Peter, fail to recognize it. 

We have the blessed assurance that if we abide in Him and His Words abide in us, we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be done for us (John 15:7). God tells us that before we even call to Him, He will answer. While we are yet speaking, He will hear us (Isaiah 65:24). 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 (I John 5:14-15)

Jesus said, “…whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."  For God calls into existence the things that do not exist (Mark 11:24; Romans 4:17).

BELIEF is the key to faith. To believe means to be convinced, to trust, and have total confidence in God. Paul had such great confidence in God that he was able to sleep peacefully, in chains, between two soldiers! 

Like Peter, are you caught in a prison of circumstances that you have no control over? 
If you have been praying and waiting, yet you have not seen an answer, keep believing and trusting God, so that when the answer arrives, you will recognize its appearing. 

PRAYER: FATHER, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are 
possible” (Matthew 19:26). Help me to trust and focus on You and not my circumstances. Prepare me to recognize and receive Your answer. Thank you for Your unwavering love and the fulfillment of Your promises. In Jesus’ name, amen.





Monday, June 17, 2019

THE HEART IS A RESERVOIR


Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23 NIV

What does God say about the heart? The heart is mentioned 830 times in the King James Bible, so we can assume that God wants us to understand the spiritual components of the heart. For the heart is a reservoir that can either hold things that support life and faith, or they can hold things that impede the flow of life and faith. The following outlines a few of the many reasons why we must guard our hearts.

The mouth is the heart's barometer. That which is in the heart overflows into our  speech (Luke 6:45). Jesus said, “…I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment”— “for death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Matthew 12:36; Proverbs 18:21;) Therefore, we must guard our heart by guarding our mouth.

King David said, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3-4). Words have the potential to be beautifully wrapped gifts that encourage and uplift, or they can be destructive darts that harm others, including the one who speaks them.What word-containers do we hold in our hearts? The mouth speaks what the heart is full of" (Luke 6:34 NIV).

The deceitful heart make its plans. "The
heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). What concealed motives, hidden secrets, or personal agendas do we have neatly tucked inside our hearts?

The foolish and careless heart knows God, 
but does not glorify Him as God, nor is it thankful, but is futile in its thoughts and becomes darkened (Romans 1:21). What things, that God calls “sin unto death,” has been accepted by society and many Christians, because their understanding has become darkened?

The willful heart walks in disobedience and
rebellion. Satan was the “seal of perfection,” full of wisdom and perfect in beauty (Ezekiel 28:12-19). But he became prideful and said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:11-15). Those two words “ I will,” reveal a willful pride that precipitated Satan’s great fall. That old sin nature continually draws us to willful disobedience and rebellion.

An obstinate heart is hardened to God's
truth, guidance, direction, and is ill-informed about divine things (Deuteronomy 2:30). According to the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus
"obstinate" means to be stubborn, unyielding, inflexible, unbending, bull-headed, self-willed, strong-willed, uncooperative, stiff-necked, rigid, uncompromising, and immovable. The obstinate heart is easily deceived.

The Apostle Paul said of the obstinate, that their foolish hearts are darkened because their spiritual eyes are closed (Romans 1:21). Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity (Proverbs 28:14 ESV). Do we yield daily to the things of God?

A heart of unbelief is a dangerous place—
"Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God, but exhort one another daily, while it is called "today," lest any of you be 
hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:12-13). Unbelief can cause backsliding.

The heart holds desires. We are forewarned
against lust, covetousness, and envy, and told to set our hearts on those things above—for where our treasure is, there our heart will be found (Colossians 3:1; Matthew 6:21). Do we desire God above all earthly things?

An obedient and willing heart says "yes" to
God. Jesus asked His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if You are willing, take
this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done (Luke 22:41-43). Even Jesus struggled with surrendering His will, but His love for mankind and His Father was greater than what He desired, and He surrendered all to God. What are we willing to surrender to God?

God requires a pure heart of integrity. That
heart is principled, honorable, upright, truthful, ethical, and moral. Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. ”For it is the righteous man who walks in his integrity, that his children are blessed after him" (Proverbs 10:9; 20:7). Shading the truth, misleading, deceiving, lying, and exaggerating all contribute to an impure heart.

The heart thinks. What we think in our heart, we become (Proverbs 23:7). Jesus asked, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?" (Matthew 9:4) We are to think on what is true, noble, right, lovely, admirable, excellent, pure, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). What consumes our thoughts?

The heart remembers, reflects, and meditates. “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). To “ponder” is to meditate, consider, reflect, review, and deliberate. “May the words of [our] mouth and the meditation of [our] heart be acceptable to You, Lord, [our] rock and [our] Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Do we daily reflect on God's Word?

The heart understands, discerns, and gives insight. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians said, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). The Holy Spirit will illuminate our heart of understandig when we seek Him.

The heart is a reservoir of either good or bad. We choose what goes into that reservoir. Are we choosing wisely? Are we choosing God’s Word, for His Word is a safeguard against sin (Psalm 119:11).

The heart functions as our conscience. It
alerts us to the presence of sin. It is the inner forum where decisions are made. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Do we include God in our decision-making, or do we make our own plans?

The faith-filled heart possesses unwavering
trust, integrity, purity, obedience, willingness, discernment, insight, understanding, wisdom, joy, and much more. It trusts God in all circumstances. Conversely, a hard and unyielding heart holds doubt, fear, unbelief, pride, sin, inflexibility, stubbornness, rebellion, sinful thoughts, lust, envy, covetousness, and unforgiveness. The hard heart follows its own path.

The more we invest in God, the more we allow His extravagant love to work in and through us. He wants us to trust Him and pour our hearts out before Him (Psalm 62:8). His peace will then protect our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. When we speak God’s Word and believe what we speak, His powerful and creative Word becomes action.

What power transforms hearts of unbelief into pure hearts of faith? What should we be storing in our reservoir? The answer to both questions is God's Word. He always responds to faith that is anchored to His sovereign Word. We can depend on His Word to bring truth to our souls, to heal, encourage, direct, lift burdens, and settle joy and peace deep within our hearts. Then as our lives are daily transformed by the renewing of our minds through His Word, we become living testimonies to others of His immense goodness and love.

PRAYER: FATHER, like King David, I ask that You “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Help me embrace and understand Your Word, as I  read it each day, so that I may know how to guard my heart. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

 WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH



 WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH

We live in a world that is besieged with unrestrained deception of every kind. But it is within the Church, that the enemy actively works to inject deceptions that produce impurity, bondage, and self-promotion. 

There are churches that have become entertainment centers, some with ear-splitting, heart-pounding rock rhythms with lyrics that express wrong theology. Let me be clear; there are also many congregations singing beautifully written, contemporary Christian music that honors God. Unfortunately, some well-intentioned churches are using contemporary music without vetting it for biblical accuracy. They assume that because the music originates from a place that is well respected, that all the music is doctrinally correct. 

The Bible warns, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). The enemy will always plant people in churches who, knowingly or unknowingly put in place man-made systems that are not of God.  

Lest we forget, Satan was in charge of worship in heaven until he became full of pride, tried to usurp God’s authority, and was cast out of heaven with one-third of the angels who also rebelled. He knows full well what worship should be and he also knows how to pervert it. He is fully aware that music affects the mind, body, spirit, soul, and emotions. He successfully perverted secular music with evil, demonic, and sexually explicit lyrics. But most importantly, he has, with stealth-like accuracy, injected what appears to be innocuous lyrics into Christian music, which has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry. In reality, some contemporary lyrics are emotion-driven and do not give glory to God but are an assault on His very nature. 

Praise is defined as showing gratitude towards God. Worship is defined as expressing reverence and adoration for God. Praise and worship must be all about God and not about us and how we fee. For praise and worship is a time of honoring God as we enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. There we give thanks to
Him for His immeasurable goodness as we bless His holy name (Psalm 100:4). Praise and worship are our gifts to God as we prepare our hearts, minds, and the very atmosphere of the church to receive from God through the preaching of His Word. 

Most worship leaders and praise team members, along with those who attend church are good, well-intentioned people, who have hearts to worship God. Unfortunately, Satan takes advantage of those desires and uses people, led by emotion and a lack of understanding of scripture, to create lyrics that do not honor God. Therefore, a question must be asked in regard to worship music, “Do the lyrics support sound biblical doctrine, and do they elevate the name of Jesus and God the Father?”

“Reckless Love” is just one of numerous scripturally errored contemporary songs sung in many churches. The stanza reads, “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, “reckless” love of God…” Aside from the word, “reckless,” the other words in the song agree with Scripture

I admit that when I first heard “Reckless Love,” I sang it without paying attention to the word, “reckless.” Then one Sunday, as the congregation was singing that song, the Lord asked me, “Am I reckless—especially with My love?” Clearly, God takes issue with associating that careless word, “reckless,” with Him. For that reason, when that song is played, I substitute “reckless” with "saving love of God.” 

It is important to know that reckless is defined as “a person whose actions are done without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action; being rash, careless, thoughtless, heedless, hasty, precipitous, impetuous, impulsive, devil-may-care; irresponsible, foolhardy, audacious, ill-advised, imprudent, and unwise.” Thus, "reckless" is the very antithesis of God's definition of love.

Does "reckless" describe our all-knowing, intentional, thoughtful Creator, who carefully and with full authority and purpose spoke the world into existence and created every living thing? In reading Genesis 1 and 2, we clearly see God’s intentionality and His careful attention to detail. Every Word that He speaks generates life and purpose; therefore, He places tremendous importance on every word that proceeds out of our mouths.

God is so intentional, that He had His holy Word carefully recorded so that those who read it would know all truth. His intentionality was further demonstrated when He sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. That was not reckless love; it was well thought out and executed perfectly through the perfect, sinless Christ.
You may ask, “What is the big deal about one word?” That one word is not only a big deal to God, it is offensive to Him, because we are saying that His love is thoughtless and careless.
God's intentional Word carries tremendous power and authority, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." He attaches all importance to His preeminent Word, and the words we speak and sing. For by [our] words [we] will justified, and by [our] words [we] will be condemned" (Matthew 12:37)
God has given us gifted, Christian song writers (past and present) who have written doctrinally solid worship and praise songs that exalt God. Therefore, we must carefully examine current song choices to see if they are doctrinally accurate, God-exalting songs. Satan knows that one, wrong word can change the meaning and intent of a song. 
God looks to us to praise and worship Him with our whole mind, body, and spirit (1 Cor. 14:14-15). And because God is a Spirit, we who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Peruse the Psalms that David sung unto the Lord. Many of those Psalms were adapted in the 70s and 80s as beautiful songs of worship. I saw firsthand, how God responded to hearing His precious Word sung to Him. Miracles happened, people committed their lives to Christ, many were healed, and lives were radically changed.

Jesus warned that there would be great deception in the last days. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). Right now, there are churches who are innocently singing music that is not honoring God. 

The Church must wake up to the enemy's strategies! God is calling His Church to worship Him in all truth. Simply stated, if the lyrics do not line up with God's Word, then the Church must not sing them.
   
PRAYER: Father, forgive me if I have sung songs that have offended and not blessed You. You call me to worship You in spirit and in truth, and that is the desire of my heart. I ask that You give me wisdom and discernment in recognizing songs that worship and glorify You, and those songs that do not honor You. In Jesus’ name, amen. 





                                                                                                                    






Monday, May 20, 2019

WHAT ARE WE STORING?


One Sunday morning as Michael and I were driving to church, I commented that just in the first mile, I had counted three self-storage businesses. I laughed and said that we had paid our fair share to store things, until we eventually sold what we could and then gave the rest away. In the end, the cost of the storage far exceeded the value of the items.

Storage lockers have become a 38-billion-dollar industry. A staggering one in eleven Americans pays an average of $90 per month, $1,080 per year to use self-storage. Ironically, what we think we need to keep and store, we manage to live without for a significant amount of time. And some of what we store, we forget we have, at least that was our case.

Jesus issued a command, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). However, the nature of most people is to amass things over time, which eventually land in storage. Although we find all kinds of ways to store and protect the material things, how careful are we about what we store in our hearts?

God tells us to guard the one thing that has the greatest value —our heart. “…pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to My Words. Do not let them out of your sight. Keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:20-23 NLT).     

God's Word instructs us not to love the world or the things in the world. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. For all that is in the world —the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions — is not from the Father but is from the world” (I John 2:15-16 ESV). Instead, we are to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2 ESV). We can enjoy things but when things own our hearts, then it is sin.

Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience set the stage for mankind to succumb to all kinds of temptation. “[For] the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV). 

Sin entered mankind to forever affect the mind, will, emotions, and desires. It would require the sacrificial death of God’s Son to redeem us from the curse of death and separation from God. However, that old sin nature is always lurking at the door of our heart. For that reason, God urges us to guard, watch over, and protect our hearts against damage or harm. 

How do we guard the heart? The only way to guard one’s heart is by knowing the truth and that truth must come from the Word of God. Unless we embrace the truths found in His Word, we will believe the world’s many lies and deceptions.

The world is growing more dangerous and hostile with even greater deceptions to come. That is why we have been warned, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8 NIV).
We see disillusionment and confusion working in the hearts of young people and Millennials, who are captivated by socialism, witchcraft, tarot cards, psychics, astrology, the paranormal and metaphysical, clairvoyance, and the telepathic. They are embracing lies, spawned by Satan and the New Atheists, who see Christians as followers of a crude and fallacy-driven religion for the weak-minded who believe in a creator that does not exist.  Ironically, these young people are leaving organized, Christian religion to embrace the New Age philosophy, astrology, and the occult, which fall into the category of being  religions (faith, belief, creed, sect, church, cult, worship).
Astrology and the occult have become popular and viewed as harmless fantasy, due to movies, books, and theme parks that romanticize demons, witches, vampires, and all things supernatural. This rebranding of witchcraft also misleads people into believing that it has more to do with nature and mother earth than with demons and the occult. Sadly, all those things are demon driven and capture the minds of the curious and uninformed.
The Word of God tells us that there will be those who, because of the blindness of their heart, will have their understanding darkened through ignorance, thus alienating them from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18). For people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because they reject His knowledge. Therefore, He will reject those who reject Him (Hosea 4:6). 
For argument sake, if we were to rent a storage space, would we consider the location, safety, and cleanliness of the facility? Would we ask if the facility was climate controlled and regularly sprayed for bugs and pests? If the answer is “yes,” then should we not give more attention to the condition of our heart and the spiritual cost of storing "bugs and pests" (mistruths and misinformation), that influence our decisions and what we believe?  
The heart has the capacity to store many things, some of which are past hurts, sins, unforgiveness, mistakes, lies, etc. These things spiritually weigh us down and exact a heavy cost to the soul, which is the mind, will, and emotions where Satan has his playground. Therefore, it is imperative that as Christians, we remove from our hearts all misinformation, mistruths, and worldly influences that exact a daily and costly price. Only then can room be made to store the things of God within our hearts.

PRAYER: FATHER, I look to You for truth, healing, and a cleansing and renewing of my heart. Reveal those hidden things that weigh heavily upon my heart and mind. Open my eyes to Your truths. Show me any mistruths and misinformation that have taken up residence in my heart. In Jesus' name, amen.



Monday, April 15, 2019

OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE

The sovereign, infinite and eternal God has purposes that are often beyond our understanding, for His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). His commands and instructions are not without purpose, for His will is to spare us from unwanted consequences, as seen in King Saul’s willful disobedience.

God had commanded King Saul to kill Amalek, the grandson of Esau, who had sold his birthright to his brother, Jacob, for a pot of stew. The Amalekites, descendants of Amalek, had attacked Israel on its wilderness journeys from Egypt and then went on to inhabit the territory assigned to Israel, Judah, and the region east of the Jordan River that forms the main part of Jordan.

God had told King Saul through the prophet, Samuel, to kill and “utterly destroy” all of the Amalekites, their belongings and livestock and not spare “one” of them (vs.3). It was not Saul’s place to question God’s reasoning nor to rescind His command; he was to obey His instructions. 

Saul disobeyed God and kept what appeared good and destroyed only those things he considered worthless. This greatly angered God, so He said to Samuel, “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from Me and has not carried out My instruction” (I Samuel 15:11)

Samuel confronted Saul, “[God] sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (vs.16-19)

Saul refused to admit his flagrant disobedience, “But I did obey the LORD. I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back [King Agag]. The people took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal” (I Samuel 15: 20-21).

Saul tried to absolve himself of his disobedience by blaming the people. However, Samuel quickly answered: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice and to [listen] is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion (disobedience) is like the sin of [witchcraft] and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the LORD, He has rejected you as king” (I Samuel 15:22-23).

What things has God told us to destroy or to put away? Have we been offering sacrifices of time and works in place of obedience? God’s Word instructs us to destroy anything that is in opposition to His Word and will. If we justify and excuse our actions and hold on to sins, addictions, wrong habits, wrong thoughts, material things, or anything that keeps us from His presence, then those acts of rebellion and disobedience open a door for the enemy to attack and torment us. God wants obedience and not excuses. 

God is quick to forgive when we acknowledge our disobedience, repent, and turn from repeating that sin. We are then able to receive God’s forgiveness. Sadly, Saul refused to acknowledge his sin. His disobedience would allow Esau’s descendants to become a great race, that to this day, seeks to destroy Israel and its people (I Samuel 15:2). Thus, God, in His righteous judgment, withdrew His Spirit and His mercy from Saul (I Samuel 16:14)

God will not always strive with those who willfully disobey Him and refuse to acknowledge their sin. If they are not submitted under God’s grace and authority, then they are under the authority of the evil one. Any attempt to deny, hide, or justify willful disobedience will one day bring that individual before the Lord, who will expose their deepest secrets and reveal their private motives (I Corinthians 4:5)

King Saul had served and loved God and had expelled mediums and spiritualists from the land. Yet he became a man who walked in rebellion and sought a soothsayer to find answers when God would not answer him. Eventually, Saul became so tormented that he took his own life. This was not God’s plan for Saul. How did he start so well and end so tragically?

Disobedience separates us from God’s plan and connects us to Satan’s evil agenda. Our decision to obey or disobey God will determine how we finish the race. Unlike Saul, we want to be able to say on that final day, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7) 

Pride, carnal desires, and rebellion will always rob us of God's best, as well as the joy that comes from doing His will. If we refuse to
surrender to the Lord, we forfeit the amazing potential that is within us. Jesus said that those who lose their life for His sake gain it, and those who hold on to their life will surely lose it (Luke 9:24). 

We need to ask, “Am I resisting God’s will.”  Let me assure you that true fulfillment never comes from charting a path that is separate from God’s will. We cannot allow fear of failure or the world's enticements to pull us away from God's purposes. 

Do we have our hearts firmly fixed on Jesus Christ, or are we overwhelmed with trials, disappointments, and problems? Maybe we have become complacent and comfortable with life, relationships, families, jobs, and all the material things that provide pleasure and financial security? What if the things that give us pleasure, comfort, joy, and security were suddenly and unexpectedly gone, as they were with Job? 

The Apostle Paul understood that his contentment, peace, and joy would never come from the world. It would arise out of those deep reserves of faith and love, solidly affixed to his abiding trust in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:12-13)

God says that He will instruct us and teach us in the way we should go; He will guide us with His eye (Psalm 32:8 NKJV). If any lacks wisdom, we can ask, and He gives generously to all without finding fault (James 1:5). Our part is to trust in the LORD with all our heat and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways, we are to submit to Him, and He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). Most importantly, He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are unwavering, because they trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).

PRAYER:
Father, I confess that I have been running from Your will and living according to my own agenda. Forgive my rebellion. I ask for Your direction and counsel. I surrender my mind, will, emotions, and life to You. Lead me in paths of righteousness that I may become the person whom You created me to be, so I may fulfill Your calling and destiny for my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.