Archive | February 2014

Wallow or Abide? You choose

This week has been a challenge for me. I have continued to battle a cold/flu bug that has left me with a hoarse voice, a mild headache and a cough. We’ve all experienced the symptoms at one time or another and they are not fun. I noticed something about myself this time around. I noticed I had become  so focused on how crummy I was feeling that I really wasn’t spending much time in prayer. I was wallowing. I hate wallowing. Wallowing is a complete waste of time. Nothing ever get’s accomplished when we wallow. I also thought of my brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide, who suffer daily with a lot worse than a cold or flu. Some to chronic illness, hunger or even persecution. They have learned that they can lean into Him during their deep lows.  In fact, there is no one better to lean into than Christ during our deep lows. They know what I am learning. Discomfort, sickness and pain can be a distraction from our walk with Christ or they can be tools to draw us even closer.

If we allow times of discomfort to pull us away from Christ, it’s not long before we begin to bear some pretty ugly fruit. We allow our discomfort to excuse bad behavior. We snap back at people, we put our needs before others, we become callous to others as we gripe and complain about how bad we feel!  Sound familiar?  It does to me! 🙂 What God may be allowing to produce some sweet fruit in us becomes an excuse to produce lemons! However, if we lean into Christ during these times, He will use the time to produce the beautiful fruits of the Spirit in us such as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Galatians 5:22,23 NIV)

We make the choice. So today, I choose to lean into Him, the lover of my soul. I choose to let Him use me this day, despite how I feel. I choose to no longer wallow. I choose to no longer drop the ball on those counting on my prayers. I choose to abide in Christ today.  I choose to allow Him to produce some sweet fruit in me instead of lemons!

Romans 5:3-5 NIVNot only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

“Each of us is as close to God as we choose to be.”~ Dr. Oswald Sanders

A Reminder to the weak

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

For the last few days I have  been battling a cold/flu.  I am not a very good patient.  I don’t like lying around. I don’t like coughing every time I try to speak.  I don’t like missing work and I don’t like feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck. However, this morning I decided that I would spend the day quietly resting and reading the Word. Though we tend to moan and groan on occasion when things throw us off our game, I am believing that even in this cold/flu God wants to speak to me and teach me something. I am assured that even in the difficult times, the valley times, the times of sickness that He is with me and longs for fellowship with me.

So today, I am going to spend time resting my body and resting in Him. Not being able to talk without coughing, allows me to listen more. Not having the energy to do much allows me to rest more. Not having many distractions allows me to focus more on Him. I am reminded of the verse in Romans 8:28 NIV 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  All of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior and have determined to follow Him can know with certainty that this is truth. Regardless of what is going on in our lives we know He will work it out for our good. Not our convenience, not our temporary happiness, not our comfort but for our good. Though we tend to look to the present, God looks out for our long term good. Every now and then we seem to have to deal with a hitch in our giddy-up. Something that comes up unexpectedly that we are forced to deal with. We can look at these things as irritations and become angry or we can recognize them as opportunities to trust in the lover of our soul! To rest in the promises of His words. To know that though we may not enjoy them, if we allow Him, God will use these opportunities to mature us up. Our faith will increase, our trust in Him will increase and we will grow more dependent on Him.

When we read Romans 8:29-39 NIV we are assured that nothing, no circumstance, no illness,  no person,  NOTHING can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

29 For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;     we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So whatever you are facing today in your walk with Christ, rest in the fact that you can trust Him to see you through. You can know that He is not willing to let you go! His love for you is eternal. He will not allow anything to separate you from His love!  You, like myself, may not feel like a conqueror today due to illness, sorrow or discouragement but YOU ARE more than a conqueror through HIM who loved us. It is not based on our feelings but truth. Rest in knowing your place in Christ today.

Father, for those of us who are feeling weak or weary today, who may be discouraged or sad, I pray that You will give us the assurance of who we are in Christ. Help us to remember that though our feelings may tell us differently, we are more than conquerors through Your Son Jesus. I pray that you will increase our faith and encourage us through Your Word today as we spend time with You. We ask it in the name of our beautiful King and Savior, Jesus.  Amen

Sitting out or serving?

If you were given the choice, which would you prefer to serve or be served? If we are honest, there are times when most of us enjoy being served. Times when we feel the need to relax and have someone else take care of some of our responsibilities or perhaps just pamper us a wee bit.  There is nothing wrong with each of us enjoying some down time to relax and be pampered. It is important however, to remember that as followers of Christ we have accepted the call to serve. If we find ourselves hesitant to get involved in serving than we have somehow misunderstood the calling on our lives. Each and every one of us who has accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior is required to follow in our Master’s footsteps. Those footsteps involve service. Service to our brothers and sisters in Christ, service in our churches and service in a world that is desperate for God.

Serving will look different for each of us. Some may be called to minister through a position in the church such as an elder, server, apostle, teacher, prophet, etc. Some may serve as a Sunday school teacher, nursery caregiver, bible study leader, prayer intercessor, worship leader, church musician or caretaker. There are multiple opportunities in each church to serve the body of Christ.  Inside and outside the church the opportunities are endless, perhaps cooking for the sick, babysitting for a single parent, visiting those in prison, driving others to Dr. appointments, helping out at a shelter, food bank etc.  Regardless of where we may find ourselves in life there are endless opportunities to serve and demonstrate the love of Christ to others. This may  at times require loving some we would naturally find unlovable.

So why bother? Why bother giving up our free time to serve when we could be doing things we enjoy. Because we are to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We  are called to demonstrate the love He has for others by using our own  hands and through the moving of the Holy Spirit. When we grasp what He did for us  at Calvary, how He willingly laid down His life in order that we may be reconciled with our Heavenly Father we should count it joy to serve!  Just as He willingly died for us out of love,as recipients of that love we should all be willing to serve others.

The bible gives us some clear words on doing just that…

Phillipians 2:1-4 NIV 2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

1 John 3:16-17 NIV 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children,let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Luke 6:32-36 NIV32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be childrenof the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Romans 15:1-6 NIV 15 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 13:1-3 NIV 13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

These are but a few verses. The Bible is full of many more that encourage us to be actively doing the will of God by serving. If you are not stirred up to serve than you need to pray and ask God to give you the desire to do His will. Ask for direction in how you may be able to serve. Ask for Him to show you the areas you are best equipped to serve.  If we have committed our life to Christ we have been given giftings through the Holy Spirit  that prevent any of us from saying we are not able to serve!  Instead of sitting on your giftings why not start using them today?

Are you feeling spiritually dry?

Do you ever feel your spiritual walk has become dry?  I know I have at times and I am sure there will be more.  Those times when we don’t feel His presence when we pray. When God seems to be far away. We are not alone in this experience.  David, a man after God’s own heart experienced it.

We see this in Psalm 13.

Psalm 13 NIV

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will You hide your face from me?How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.But I trust in your unfailing love;  my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise  for He has been good to me.

So how do we handle dry seasons? I believe the first thing we need to do is be sure we are not the cause. If there is unconfessed sin in our lives we need to confess it. If we are continuing in sin we need to repent and turn from the sin. Unconfessed sin will build a wall between us and our Savior but there is a fix. Confess it and turn from it! The Bible tells us in 1John 1:9 NIV If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness. Not some, but all!

If we have done this and still find ourselves feeling far from God than we perhaps we need to begin to praise God for all the things He has done for us. Praise is such an important part of our walk. Just as in Psalm 13, after David expresses his feelings of abandonment he ends with something He knows is truth, despite his feelings. He says “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise for He has been good to me.”  He speaks truth into the situation regardless of his feelings at the time. He knows that he knows that he knows that God’s love is UNFAILING and that the Lord has been good to him.

We too know that as followers of Christ, His love is UNFAILING and He has been good to us. Begin to praise Him and thank Him daily for every good thing you can remember Him doing in your life and the life of others. Love on Him even when you don’t feel Him loving on you. As you begin to actively do so, it won’t be long before you find yourself enjoying the beauty of His presence again.

I now look at these dry times as times of growth. An opportunity for me to love on my God who is never far from me, despite how I may feel. A time to give Him my praise and thanksgiving despite my feelings! A time to love Him in faith, knowing that despite how I may feel, as the Word says, He will NEVER leave me or forsake me. I can be confident that even without warm and fuzzy feelings my God is ever present!

If you are currently wading through a spiritual dry patch start out by praying and asking God to forgive any sin you have been engaging in. If you are still engaging in it, then it’s time to stop and repent and ask Him for forgiveness. If you daily confess  your sins and don’t believe unconfessed sin to be the cause of the blockage then continue to pray and read the Word and begin to thank and praise God for all He has done in your life and the lives of others you know.  Love on Him as you wait for the dry spell to leave! Put the time to good use!

How BIG is your church?

 When we talk about the church do we often limit it to our “own” church? The body of believers that we are joined with by meeting together on a regular basis, sharing with, supporting and praying for? If so, perhaps  we need to widen our scope. We need to remember that every follower of Christ anywhere in the world is our brother and sister.  Though it is vital that we are part of a local church body for spiritual growth, to bless and be a blessing to others, to serve locally, to bring our tithes etc… it is also vital that we not neglect our brothers and sisters elsewhere. We belong to a church family that is sprinkled from one end of the planet to the other and it is so important that we pray for and give to our “worldwide” family when the need arises. Through the internet, tv, newspapers and other forms of media we are able to hear the plight of our brothers and sisters in foreign lands. If we hear and do nothing we are not demonstrating the love of Christ to those who may need us desperately.

If we see a need and we have the financial resources to do so, we should help in the most responsible way possible. If we are not able to financially give, we still have a mighty weapon we can wield on their behalf and that is prayer! We have the ability to intercede for many of our brothers and sisters who are in great need, who may be suffering under the hand of persecution or who may be stumbling. I, like most Christians, am a firm believer in supporting our local church. I think it is scriptural and necessary, however I don’t think that just because we do so we have the right to ignore the plight of our fellow followers of Christ in foreign lands. We may not all be called as missionaries but we are all called to help others in need and it would be negligent to ignore our brothers and sisters plight.

I am glad to be part of a church that regularly supports our fellow brothers and sisters outside our own circle. I believe God is blessing us greatly partially because of that. I also believe that it is the responsibility of each of us individuals to do our part. Why not assign specific prayer time a day to intercede for believers in a specific country? Or perhaps for those worldwide that are being persecuted for their faith? For ministries that are sharing the gospel of Christ on a day in/day out basis. For children in foreign lands that are being torn from their Christian homes and becoming the victim of sex traffickers all because their parents will not reject Christ.

I am not suggesting we stop praying for the unsaved or unloved. That is the call of every believer. However, it is important we do not neglect our own. There are believers worldwide in great need of prayer and in many cases food, shelter and protection from an ever encroaching enemy. I believe it pleases our Lord when we bring the hurting, the downtrodden, the persecuted, the weak and the suffering before Him in prayer and I also believe it can release the change in their lives that they desperately need! Our prayers can move spiritual mountains! We live in exciting times. We are seeing God raise up people all over the world that are sold out for Him. Let’s not take that for granted. Let’s each do our part in supporting our brothers and sisters worldwide in whatever manner we can.  The Word of God encourages us to do this by both  prayer and meeting their tangible needs.

Ephesians 6:18 NIV 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

James 2:14-17 NIV 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Lord, please teach us to pray effectively for our brothers and sisters worldwide. Give us the heart and desire to interceded on their behalf and to help in whatever way possible. Keep our hearts tender to the needs of others as we walk out our love for You.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

YOU and I are His disciples!

John 15:16 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

John 15:16 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

There is so much going on in our world right now that could cause us to be distracted from the calling on our lives. We have sports, entertainment, family responsibilities and gatherings, jobs, electronics etc.. It is easy to become waylaid from the purposes God has called us to accomplish.  Each day it is a choice as to whether we will fulfill His purposes for our lives  or we will fulfill our own goals and purposes.  Do we spend more time in front of the tv than in the Word of God? Do we waste time gossiping instead of interceding for others? Do we choose to stay home and relax instead of getting ourselves to church on Sunday? We are daily faced with these type of decisions and sadly many Christians are choosing the way of their own comfort.

We have been given the gift of salvation through a Savior that lovingly died for us yet often we can’t even bring ourselves to spend any time with Him in prayer or in the Word of God. Too often, we would entertain ourselves with things that have little to no lasting spiritual significance. When we made the decision to follow Christ, we became His disciples. As disciples we have a purpose that involves more than our own comfort.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the following definition of a disciple..

dis·ci·ple

noun \di-ˈsī-pəl\

: someone who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of a famous person

: one of a group of 12 men who were sent out to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ

A disciple has a very distinct purpose and that purpose is to accept and help spread the teachings of their leader, who as Christians, is Christ.  This is not the purpose of just a select few but is the purpose for each and every one of us who calls Christ our Lord and Savior.  Each of us will have a different group of individuals that we are to impact but we are all His disciples and therefore we are all called to share the gospel.  When we choose our own comfort over sharing the gospel we are not being true followers of Christ.  Let’s take a look at a few verses from the Bible on being disciples…

Matthew 28:19-20 NIV 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

John 8:31 NIV 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.

John 13:35 NIV 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 15:8 NIV 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:16 NIV 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Romans 10:14-15 NIV 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

And finally…

Hebrews 10:25 NIV 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

If we are to be true followers of Christ we cannot be Christians in name alone. We must daily make the decision to obey Him and His leading in our lives. We are to share the good news with those who desperately need to hear it! We need to encourage our brothers and sisters who may be struggling and we need to continue to move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. Every single one of us has been called with a purpose and we all need to be doing our part in the body until Jesus returns or He calls us home.

If you have become a Sunday seat warmer only, ask God to forgive you of your spiritual idleness and stir up in you a desire to fulfill the purposes He has called you to do. Don’t waste another day!

Lord, I ask that you would forgive me for my spiritual laziness that has allowed me to put my comfort before Your purposes for my life. Please stir up in me the giftings that You have given me and show me what I can do this day to further Your kingdom. Give me a heart that loves what You love and hates what You hate and empower me to demonstrate that love to those who need it.  In the precious name of Jesus,  Amen.