January 24, 2012

What's mine is Yours


I have always understood that everything I have belongs to God.  Nothing I own is mine.  My home, my car, money, and family, all belong to Him.  Each is a gift entrusted to me by God and I accept that each is His to give or take away.  At least I thought I did until I read the story of Job once again.

It was a particularly hard day.  I was struggling with doubt and questioning God’s purpose for things happening in my life. The particular story of Job has often served as a reminder on numerous occasions as to God’s faithfulness in times of pain and discouragement. I decided to read it again and as I read, it was not that I found something new in the story, but instead God showed me something new. He used the story of Job to convict me and spoke to my heart saying, “My daughter when it just doesn’t make sense, reach for ME, trust ME.”

Feeling empty from my own loss, I looked at Job. He lost everything.  Everything he owned was gone, including all ten of his children. As I reread Job’s story, something triggered a chain of thoughts that led me to a better understanding of God’s work in my own life. Job knew he came into this world with nothing.  He knew that all he had belonged to God. God chose to give and to take away.  Though all he had was gone, Job’s choice was to praise and trust God no matter what happened.

Unbeknownst to Job, the story begins with a heavenly conversation in the heavens between God and Satan. A conversation in which God pointed out His upright servant Job while Satan refuted he was only that way because he had everything he wanted. God gave Satan permission to test Job.  He told Satan that everything Job had was in Satan’s hands to do with has he chose, but on the man himself, he was not to lay a finger.  God allows testing but not without setting the parameters first.  He has the final say. As the reader, we can see the big picture.  We have insight into God’s plan but not Job.  He is going about his daily life clueless as to what is about to transpire.  We too are unaware of the heavenly conversations taking place but they do.  Moments of testing and opportunities to trust leave us left in the dark as to what God’s plan is for our lives.  Like Job, we can be confident of the greater picture and know there is a plan and a reason.
God allowed Satan to enter into my life through circumstances and allowed evil to remove my children from me. God did not remove them, but He allowed their removal for His greater purpose because He knew what I needed. Wanting nothing more than to love God with every fiber of my being, He knew something stood in the way that I didn’t.  He knew I held something back that prevented complete surrender to Him.  So much time was spent proclaiming my trust in Him in every circumstance, but was it real? He knew I needed to be refined.

Fooling ourselves is easy and it is even easier to fool those around us but we cannot fool God.  He knows those things that take His place in our lives.  When we accept His call, we have to allow Him room to clean house and remove the things that take precedence over Him.  He waits for an invitation.  He longs to examine our hearts. It can be heart breaking, but total surrender and commitment to God means being completely willing to let go of everything, trusting Him fully though we may not understand.

I’ve always done my best to teach my children Truth.  I have taught them of God’s faithfulness, but I now have a new job, an additional lesson to teach. When the questioning begins as to why things are happening or why people are doing bad things, my answer is simple. We are going to choose to trust God’s perfect plan and follow where He leads because He is faithful in all things. It is not up to me to know the plan.  It is only my place to trust.


January 17, 2012

She stands alone


By: Glynnis Whitwer

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

I wiped beads of sweat from my forehead as I pushed the shopping cart towards my car. Unloading my groceries as fast as I could, I hopped in my car, hoping for quick relief. But the triple digit temperatures had seeped inside. Blasting the air conditioning, I pulled out of the parking lot on to a back street. That’s when I saw her. Standing alone.

A petite figure stood on the sidewalk in front of a brick building. A black covering draped her head, leading to a black dress, black hose and sturdy black shoes. Though she faced the building, I could see she held a Bible. Her head bent over the cradled book as she stood in the sweltering heat. Alone.

It took but a moment to pass her, but the image of her standing alone branded into my brain. Oh, I’ve seen people standing alone in front of buildings. But this wasn’t just any building. This wasn’t a bank or a restaurant. There was no bus stop in front. The women entering this building were broken, and weren’t going in for healing.

And on that hot summer afternoon one woman stood alone praying for them and the children they carried.

She stood alone for what she believed God told her to do that day. In the heat. Facing discomfort, odd looks and probably some derisive comments. Some might say her sacrifice made no difference. We’ll never know.

We’ll never know whose plans were changed by her prayers, by her willingness to stand alone.

Moments before I saw her, all I thought about was getting out of the heat. But her conviction challenged me to ask: For what cause am I willing to stand alone?

The sight of her touched me deeply because I know the exhaustion of battle fatigue. I’ve sat in frustration rather than standing firm. I know what weary feels like when it seems my efforts aren’t making a significant difference. I’ve felt cornered rather than like a conqueror.

Some days, I’m tired of standing for what I believe in. I think others would stand taller, or with less exhaustion. They’d deal with discouragement better than me. They’d show mercy where I show frustration. Maybe someone else could … maybe they should … take over for me.

That’s when the image of this humble woman comes to mind. And the Lord says to me:

You just think she’s standing alone. She’s not. I’m right next to her. And I’ll be right next to you. Keep standing.

So I breathe in and breathe out. I picture the precious sister standing in front of the building. Only this time, she’s not alone. In my mind I see Jesus standing beside her.

And on my own street, in my own life, in my own home, facing my own calling, wondering if I’m making any difference, I determine to stand another day. For a cause I believe in … for the cause of Christ … wherever He calls me to stand.

Dear Lord, thank You for reminding me that when I think I’m standing alone, I’m not. Thank You for being my hope in difficult times, and holding me up when I want to sit this one out. Help me to remember You are a very present help in times of trouble. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

January 13, 2012

What amazing insight. Great reminder of how evil is exposed and is not hidden from God.

The Traitor's Traitor
Greg Laurie

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?" And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. —Matthew 26:14-15

The most mysterious, and perhaps the most misunderstood, of the twelve disciples is Judas Iscariot. His very name is synonymous with evil and treachery. Judas is the traitor's traitor, ending his life in suicide after he sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. But there is more to Judas than that.

I think if we could travel back in time to the first century and actually see Jesus and His disciples, we wouldn't be able point out Judas. I don't think he would be the sinister man we would suspect—at least outwardly. In fact, Judas might even appear to be relatively compassionate.

For example, when Jesus and the disciples were at the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary in Bethany, Mary brought out some expensive perfume and began to wipe Jesus' feet with it. Jesus was deeply touched by this sacrificial act, but it was Judas who pointed out that this costly perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Those listening may have thought, That is a good point. You know, Judas is a good steward. He is frugal. He is thoughtful. Let's give Judas a round of applause.

But John gives us a little insight into why Judas said this: "This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it" (John 12:6). Some have portrayed Judas as someone who got caught up in the drama, and things just sort of backfired. But Judas did what he did because of his greed. He could have changed his course had he chosen to. He certainly was given opportunities.

This reminds us that things are not always as they appear. And Judas' covert greed ultimately destroyed him.

January 8, 2012

Break the Chain of Lies

I originally posted this on April 28, 2011. Imagine my surprise when I was on google tonight and the result that appeared was my own. Apparently God knew I needed the reminder. He's always on time.

Article first published as Break the Chain of Lies on Blogcritics.

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.” Ephesians 4:25 “He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me”. Psalm 101:7

Because my life has involved the court system over the past year, I have found myself researching and trying to understand more about how our system works. One of the fasicnating things I have found interesting in the process is that of perjury. In a court of law, those that lie under oath are committing a crime and can be charged a fine or put into prison. Judges do not look favorably upon those that lie in court and can even throw out their testimony.

Lying is a sin. Many verses address Gods feeling toward those that lie and lying itself. Proverbs (6:16-17) says that God HATES a lying tongue and He hates those who tell lies (Prov 12:22) as well as destroys those that lie (Psalm 5:6). Those are harsh statements but true. True because God cannot lie and cannot be in the presence of those who choose to lie.

So why is God so tough on those that lie? Why such harsh statements? Because lying is contrary to God’s character. It is not that God chooses not to lie or that He will not lie but instead that He CANNOT lie. God IS TRUTH. Titus 1:2 says, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began”. God always speaks truth! When He makes a promise to us, we can be assured that He will follow through with His promises to us. Even when we fall short and fail Him, God is still there. He is faithful to His promises and will not forsake us.

“if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

When we lie, it is never “of God” but instead comes from the “father of lies”, Satan. His mission is to steal, kill and destroy and that is exactly what he accomplishes when we fall into the sin of lying. We lie for various reasons. We tell little white lies because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. We lie to keep ourselves out of trouble. We lie to make ourselves appear better to others. No matter what the reason or the kind of lie, God considers it all a sin.

When we don’t tell the truth, there are consequences to face. In the story of Ananias and Sapphira, they sold a piece of property and only gave half of their money to the church. They lied to the Apostles saying that they only sold the land for the amount that they gave. God struck them down dead. There sin was not that they kept the money but instead that they did not tell the truth.

Proverbs tells us that God destroys those that lie. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira that meant literal death. For us I think it may mean other things. I was reading a book today that suggested some things we might lose to death because of our lying. Things such as our marriages (“falsehoods are termites in the trunk of the family tree”), our conscience (the tragedy of the second lie is that it is always easier to tell than the first), a career, faith (those who are fluent in the language of false-hood find terms like confession and repentance hard to pronounce). We could also lose things like intimacy, trust and peace.

When we lie, we lose the most important thing of all: our witness. Just as the court will not hear the testimony of a perjured witness, the world will not listen to the testimony of a lying proclaimed Christ-follower.

One of my favorite verses is found in Matthew. It says, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”(25:21) I have seen this verse lived out so much over the past year. I have experienced God’s faithfulness. He gives us so much more when we choose to follow Him and live according to His ways and not our own.

So many are bound and buried by their lies. When we are facing a problem, we are left at a fork in the road wondering which path to take. Should we tell the truth and face the music or continue down the path of lies? The question to ask in those moments is whether or not God will bless your deceit. Would God, One who hates lies, bless a strategy that has been built on lies? Will God honor the manipulator? Will God rescue the cheater? Will God bless our dishonesty?

We must choose to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth or we will be bound by chains and buried forever. Once we make the choice and examine our hearts, the truth will set us free.

January 7, 2012

Angels Among Us

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2



Pretty sure that I had a visit from an angel while I was working because   the whole encounter was just too perfect and right on time.  

I woke up that morning feeling quite defeated.  Knowing after several days of good things happening that it wouldn't last forever, I should have been prepared. I should have been ready for a down day. I've learned that the enemy always attacks when I'm feeling closest to God. That should have served as my red flag.  I should have been on guard and ready for this attack but sadly it took me by surprise.  I've been walking so confident and secure in His plan and His love lately but woke up allowing the whispers of an enemy so vile to enter my head and fill my heart. I just couldn't stand up against the attack. 

It is unusual for me to been seen without a smile on my face or happy for that matter.  This is how I arrived at work on this day.  Unhappy to be there. Sadness in my eyes and defeat in my heart. I was unprepared. I had neglected having my daily conversation with God that morning leaving me open for more attacks.  Honestly, I just didn't care. I felt justified in allowing the enemy to get the best of me.  Come on, I deserve it every once in awhile after all I've been through.  Right?  You know what?  It was okay.  God knew I would have my down day and He had everything in place.

I'm learning that I do not have to be strong all the time.  I'm learning that everyone has weak moments. God knows my heart, He knows where I stand with Him, which means that even in those dark moments, when I'm not feeling it He knows I trust Him. He was prepared for me.

Work that morning was incredibly slow. The store was hauntingly quiet which meant I was alone in my thoughts.  For me, when I'm down, being alone with my thoughts is horrible place to find myself. I end up having conversations in my head with those that I would more than enjoy having a face-to-face confrontation with at some point in time.  However, these conversations are never good and I can be completely honest and say not Christ like either.   These particular conversations only bring me down even more and draw me further from Truth.  This is when I could feel the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart reminding me to take my thoughts captive.  This morning that was easier said than done.

As I was wrestling with the Holy Spirit, I happened to look up and see an elderly woman standing at the counter.  She appeared to be the age of my grandmother.  I took a breath and walked over. I just did not feel like talking.  As I approached her, it was as if she could read my mind.  She looked at me and said, "This store is so quiet. Almost too quiet.  Leaves too much time to think."  I'm sure my jaw dropped.  I was not sure what to say but simply answered with a quiet yes.  From there a conversation developed that continued for an hour.  I did not say much but instead just listened.  From what few details I divulged of my own life, it was as if she knew the rest of my story by what she shared.  

I have experienced those types of situations so many times throughout the past couple of years.  Those moments when I'm feeling the most defeated, God sends a divine appointment. After this encounter, I am even more certain that angels have entertained me on more than one occasion.  God's providential planning is awe-inspiring.  That morning, He took my emotionally drained heart and rejuvenated it through a conversion that was clearly divine.  He is always on time, every time.

After she left, I began sharing with a new coworker of what had just happened.  He too is a Christian and for the next thirty minutes, we talked about Joseph, Esther and Job.  He pointed out pieces of my life that were clearly moments of God working to grow my faith.  It was a remarkable couple of hours at work.

Several months ago when I was hired at this store, I walked out rejoicing because after fourteen years of being a stay at home mom, I was hired on the spot.  With the economy so bad and so many without work, I was given the first job I applied for right on the spot and  I whole heartedly believed that God had given me that job as a way to provide for me financially.  Boy, I have quickly changed my mind. I no longer feel that this job has anything to do with money.  After several longs years of being abandoned by friends, family and a church I trusted, people who had been in my life for years, God has placed me in a position where complete and utter strangers are speaking His truth to me.  I have learned to recognize His voice in the most random circumstances and the most unusual people.  

God knows what we need.  He knows when we need it.  I've stopped worrying about my circumstances because I learned some time ago that He has a plan much greater than anything I can see.  Now I'm learning how to recognize His hand in every situation.  He shows His constant confirmation of His presence in my life almost daily now by those who are willing to be obedient to His voice and speak truth into my life.  

Here's praying that now I will be that obedient one and be available to those around me when they need to hear truth.  May my heart be ready and open to hear His call when He asks me to speak in bold obedience to another who needs to hear truth and find hope.

GOD IS GOOD!

January 4, 2012

Why Can I Not Follow You Now?

Oswald Chambers

Peter said to Him, ’Lord, why can I not follow You now?’ —John 13:37

There are times when you can’t understand why you cannot do what you want to do. When God brings a time of waiting, and appears to be unresponsive, don’t fill it with busyness, just wait. The time of waiting may come to teach you the meaning of sanctification— to be set apart from sin and made holy— or it may come after the process of sanctification has begun to teach you what service means. Never run before God gives you His direction. If you have the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt— wait.

At first you may see clearly what God’s will is— the severance of a friendship, the breaking off of a business relationship, or something else you feel is distinctly God’s will for you to do. But never act on the impulse of that feeling. If you do, you will cause difficult situations to arise which will take years to untangle. Wait for God’s timing and He will do it without any heartache or disappointment. When it is a question of the providential will of God, wait for God to move.

Peter did not wait for God. He predicted in his own mind where the test would come, and it came where he did not expect it. “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” Peter’s statement was honest but ignorant. “Jesus answered him, ’ . . . the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times’ ” (John 13:38). This was said with a deeper knowledge of Peter than Peter had of himself. He could not follow Jesus because he did not know himself or his own capabilities well enough. Natural devotion may be enough to attract us to Jesus, to make us feel His irresistible charm, but it will never make us disciples. Natural devotion will deny Jesus, always falling short of what it means to truly follow Him.

January 3, 2012

Insidious


A friend of mine has been praying the psalms over me daily.  Today, I am claiming Psalm 34 for myself. 

2011 taught me a lot.  I know the story of Esther and Job like never before.  I accept God’s love and grace for me like never before.  I understand the sacrifice in which Christ made for me on the cross like never before.  I know and am more confident than ever before that “Nothing touches your life that has not first passed through the hands of God. He is in full control, and because He is, He has the sovereign right to permit trials that we don't deserve.” (Charles Swindoll) 

I have listened to those who have gone on and on about how God did not allow any of these bad things to happen.  He would not have allowed this outcome.  They have stated in so many words that this outcome is punishment.  Again, here is my statement to you….

I will begin with an amazing quote from Charles Swindoll that better states anything I feel I could write at the moment.  In this quote, he is speaking on the story of Job found in Job 1:1-12. As he (Job) sleeps, another scene opens to us that Job doesn't see. Similar things happen in our lives as well. When we're not aware of it, God is carrying out a plan that would amaze us and, on occasion, shock us. He is permitting things to get underway that we would have never expected. Without Job's knowledge, something is happening in the heavenlies. We are transported from Planet Earth to the third heaven to witness its occurrence.

As the Lord God looks about, He sees His angelic servants who have come to present themselves before Him. And why not? They're accountable to Him. They do His bidding as they carry out His divine will.

Suddenly the Accuser appears among the other angels. He is the evil one who accuses God's people day and night.

Pause and remember that Satan is not a little imp with a red body, carrying a pitchfork, and sitting on one of your shoulders whispering ugly little nothings in your ear. That's a medieval caricature that Satan would love for you to believe. Instead, he is the most attractive, brilliant, powerful archangel that God ever created. He has not lost his brilliance. He has not lost his power. He has certainly not lost his appealing beauty. He is also insidious. Satan's favorite method of working is behind the scenes. Because he is invisible does not mean he is not real. As we will see a little later, he has personality. And he is engaged in a relentless commitment to destroying God's people and opposing God's plan. It is this insidious adversary we find standing in the heavenlies among the group of faithful angelic servants.

Look at the permission slip He hands Satan. "All that he has is yours to deal with." He adds a caveat, "only do not put forth your hand on him" (Job 1:12). "Don't you touch his life. Don't touch his body or his soul or his mind. You can remove his possessions, and you can attack his family, but leave the man, himself, alone."

Satan departed from the presence of the Lord with a sinister grin. Keep in mind, Job knew nothing of that dialogue and the evil that would soon befall him. And remember this: we don't know what wicked schemes Satan is planning against us either.”

There it is my friends.  The key to the story.  Keep in mind, Job knew nothing of that dialogue and the evil that would soon befall him. And remember this: we don't know what wicked schemes Satan is planning against us either.” Everything was taken from him.  He lost everything because God gave permission to Satan to test the faith of Job.  God did not personally inflict the pain, death and heartache upon Job Himself but He gave Satan the Ok. God gave permission to Satan to do as he pleased to Job however there was a restriction in which Satan had to abide to. Do you understand that?  Satan was given limits.  He could not step out of what God permitted!

God is in control of everything that takes place.  Satan has great power and creativity but God sets the boundaries.  There are a lot out there who do not want to hear that much less believe it.  There was a time I didn’t want to either.  I remember when Columbine happened.  I was young in my faith and questioned why in the world God would allow such a tragedy to take place.  I didn’t understand how he could allow innocent children to die.  I can now understand my own questions of why but only because of my faith and confidence in who He is.

God has a plan we do not understand.  He has a reason behind every event whether good or bad.  Yes, sin and Satan are behind the horror that takes place but God allows those things so that we may draw closer to Him.  He allows these things so that we may place our hope and trust in Him alone and not ourselves.  We cannot control what happens.  Every event whether great or small is accomplished, determined, played out only after it has passed through the hands of God and His approval has been given. 

God sees all things.  He sees the big picture.  We are only a small portion of a big plan.  In our darkest hour, we cannot see an inch in front of us but it leaves us vulnerable to trust God for direction.  We’re left searching for His presence and His voice.  For me, one of the exciting things I have found is knowing that He is right there.  He is allowing a process to unfold in order for my faith to grow.  I have confidence in knowing that He will not allow evil to overcome and have the victory.  In the moment, it may appear that evil has won but I have confidence in His promises that there is still so much more to my story and so much more to come. 

Psalm 34 says, (vs. 15-18) “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil; he will erase their memory from the earth. The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

I believe this!  I claim it!  I know that God’s hand is upon me and He sees all things.  I believe He hears every word spoken by me, to me as well as knows every tear I have cried.  He is fully aware of the hurt I have had and the cause of those hurts. I know He will rescue me from those who have caused harm.  I believe it!  I claim it with everything in me because He has proven time and time again that He IS faithful!! Through it all I have realized that God turns His back on those that do harm and evil to others.  I believe a point comes when the heart of those who do evil becomes hardened and God’s hand is no longer upon them. 

Psalm 34 also says that (vs20)“The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken.”

We are not promised a life without heartache and storms.  Without those things we would never grow in our faith. However we are given the promises throughout scripture that God is on our side and that He WILL rescue us each and every time!  He protects me all the time, every time!

Psalm 34:21-22 says that “calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. But the Lord will redeem those who serve Him.  No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.”

How can you argue with that verse?  God promises to punish those who are wicked and who devise evil schemes.  You do not cause harm to His children and go unpunished.  He redeems those who serve Him and we can take refuge in His arms of love and know that in the end, He has the victory! All the time, every time!!

I have been through a lot but I know others who have been through so much more.  We are all dealt crummy hands in life at one time or another but the choice is ours.  Will we cling to Christ and trust His best for us or will we allow doubt to creep in leaving us to forget His faithfulness?  The choice is yours to make!  What choice will you make in 2012?